We, the Jury, find…

The jury finally reached a verdict at 6:30, but you won’t understand it until you know what actually happened, so I’m just going to explain the whole thing. If you don’t want to read everything, just skip to the last 5 paragraphs. 

 

On Jan 20th of 2004, Emily and I were on our way home from school. I stopped at the stop sign, looked both ways, and then started to go. We were crossing Rout K on Mt. Caramel rd. when a 1 ton truck hit us. Emily and I ended up going to the emergency room, but the man driving the truck – Eddie Eugene Phillips (insert many angry euphemisms) – refused treatment. While he was there he loaded up all of the garage door panels that he had on his truck and walked around screaming and cursing at everyone. While I was still in ER – on a stretcher with a neck brace – the cop gave me a ticket. The ticket said Careless and Imprudent, which is just as bad in the state of Missouri as Driving Under the Influence. We assumed that I got a C&I because he thought I was just an irresponsible teenager and not paying attention to what was happening. Normally it would have been Failure to Yield Right of Way, but rather than fight it and go through a bunch of courtroom stuff, I just plead guilty, paid the fine, and took the class that I needed so that I could get the points taken off of my record.

 

In March of 2005, I was subpoenaed, saying that Eddie E. Phillips and his wife, Lane Phillips, were suing me for $500,000. They were claiming that Eddie was disabled from the accident, and that because he had become impotent after the accident, it was causing problems in their marriage. Of course, we aren’t covered for that much in our insurance policy, and there was no way that they deserved that much money. Our insurance tried to settle the claim several different times, but they kept refusing, so we had to get a lawyer and go to court for it.

 

Monday morning, we got to the courthouse and our lawyer greeted us with “Um, we need to talk.” Apparently, Mr. Phillips had withheld some information from both his lawyer and us. The information was this: he had injured his right arm a year before the accident by falling from the rafters of someone’s roof! Well, Mr. Phillips’ lawyer, Dr. Bradshaw (insert even angrier euphemisms here), wanted to file for continuance so that he could figure out what to do with that, but we decided to go ahead with the trial. Since it was his client’s fault that they’d just found out about it, it was my decision as to what we should do. Bradshaw talked his client into offering us $60,000, but we still thought it was too much. We offered them the amount that our insurance company had authorized us to offer, but they turned it down. Bradshaw made my attorneys sign a paper saying the amount that we had offered, so that he wouldn’t be liable if the plaintiff was unsatisfied with the outcome of the trial.

 

Jury selection started at about 9:00. There were 55 potential jurors, and my attorney managed to memorize all of their names by the time he stood to ask them questions about the trial. It was impressive. They swore the jurors in at 12:30, and after opening statements we took a break for lunch. In his opening statements Dr. Bradshaw said that I had run the stop sign (What??? You LIE), and that I was trying to get away without taking responsibility.

 

After lunch Dr. Bradshaw brought in Mr. Phillips’ boss who stated that Eddie had missed work because of the accident. When asked by my attorney how he knew this, he stated that he had reviewed his papers.

“Oh, so you have documents with exact dates then?” my attorney asked.

“Yes.”

“Is there a reason then, that you only gave us two pages after you received our letter to you telling you that you needed to release ALL work records of Mr. Phillips’ to us?”

“Uh…”

“No further questions your honor.”

 

Next, Bradshaw started bringing in his “expert witnesses”, several different doctors, to “testify” (it was actually just videotaped) saying that the wreck had caused Mr. Phillips’ rotator cuff to tear and he was now disabled and in pain because of it. Unfortunately for Bradshaw, my attorney is not only awesome at what he does, he also was telling the truth, so he tore through all of those testimonies. The plaintiff’s “evidence” was still being presented by noon on Tuesday.

 

After lunch, we listened to Tiffany, the girl who was “traveling 45 mph about 3 car lengths behind Mr. Phillips who was driving 55.” Or so she said. She sat down in the witness’s chair and claimed to recognize Mr. Phillips and my attorney’s assistant as the two people involved in the wreck. I’m sure everyone was aware that she was obviously very credible after that statement. When my attorney explained that it was actually me who was involved in the wreck, she said “I don’t recognize that girl. The girl I seen, she had long hair. She had long hair, and the girl I seen was wearin’ a dress.” This is coming from a lady who is actually a hairstylist, wow, she’s brilliant too. When asked what had happened Tiffany said “I seen that girl in her van just run that stop sign and I seen her hit that white truck and then I seen that truck run into the big pole.”

“Excuse me,” my attorney says, “did you say that Ms. Townsend’s van hit Mr. Phillips’ truck?”

“Yeah, I seen her just go outta that street and she just ran that stop sign and didn’t even stop and she run right into the side of the truck while he was driving by her.”

“No further questions.”

  1. I did NOT run the stop sign; if you’ve got any small bit of intelligence and look at the police report, it’s obvious that I didn’t run the stop sign.
  2. Mr. Phillips’ truck hit ME, not the other way around.
  3. Mr. Phillips never hit “a big pole,” but rather, he swiped a small street sign with the edge of his truck.
  4. People sometimes cut their hair
  5. You can hardly see the stop sign from where she claimed to be, so there’s no way that she could have witnessed me running a stop sign even if that had been what happened!

 

After Tiffany spoke, Mr. Phillips testified as a witness. He says that he didn’t see me until I was already into the intersection. Seeing as how they had just had someone testify that she had seen me long before I entered the intersection and she was behind Mr. Phillips, it was pretty obvious that she was lying and/or Mr. Phillips wasn’t paying attention. He says that he had looked at the speed limit sign and back down at his speedometer to check that he was going 55 and, amazingly enough, he was traveling at exactly 55! What a model citizen. Mr. Phillips told us that he had seen me 3 seconds before the time of impact, yet the skid marks show that he had only been breaking for less than ¼ of a second when he hit me. He also had to tell the jury that he had already been paid by workman’s comp for two times what his medical bills were.

 

Next, the plaintiff put his wife on the stand to tell us about how hard their life would become if he lost his job. She also managed to let slip that “not all of his complaints of pain are from his shoulder,” oops. Dr. Bradshaw was giving her the “shut up; that is not one of the lines that I fed to you” look by that time.

 

Having presented a total of four Doctors – each being paid around $600 an hour to say that the accident was the cause of Mr. Phillips injury – for an hour each, a “witness,” the plaintiff, and the plaintiff’s wife; Bradshaw was done. It was now my attorney’s turn to defend me.

 

First is the police officer who wrote the ticket and drew the reconstruction (a drawing of what had to have happened according to the skid marks and placement of vehicles) of the accident. He basically explained the diagram of the accident.

 

Next it was my turn. Scary stuff, but apparently I did a pretty good job. During the cross-examination Bradshaw pulled out the Missouri Drivers’ manual and opened it to the page about stop signs. “A stop sign is an eight sided shape which is red with white letters which say STOP, is that correct”

            “yeah.” No, really? I was WONDERING what that thing was!

            “And this says that one should bring the vehicle to a stop when you see a stop sign, is that correct.”

            “That’s correct” Oh my gosh! I had never thought of THAT before! Jeez!

            “No further questions your honor.”

            What exactly was the point of that? Was he hoping that I wouldn’t recognize the stop sign?Quite a few of the jurors were looking at each other like we all know she’s not an idiot, so why did we have to sit here and listen to him make sure she knew what a stop sign is? 

After that, our only Dr. testified (also a videotape), but rather than being a 51 minute long tape from a Dr. that our attorney knew and sent lots of business to (which is exactly what Bradshaw’s Doctors were), our tape was 28 minutes long. Would you believe, he made more sense than any of the others?

 

After that, they made closing arguments. Bradshaw saying that I was trying to shirk my responsibilities and that I had been careless and that Mr. Phillips deserved at least $200,000. My attorney explained that Mr. Phillips had already been paid $50,000 by workman’s comp, and that it wasn’t a forced amount, but that Mr. Phillips had willingly signed for it; then, he asked the jurors to think about who really was more credible as a witness.

 

The jurors were sent into deliberation with these instructions.

1.      Assign a percentage of fault for the accident to both the defendant and plaintiff.

Example:

Defendant Leah Townsend 90%

            Plaintiff Eddie Phillips    10%

            Total                                        100%

2.      Next they were asked to choose an amount of money that seemed fair for the damages that this accident caused or contributed to cause.

They were told that the amount that they decided upon would then be divided between the defendant and plaintiff according to the percentages of fault that they had chosen. They were also told that only 9 of the jurors were needed in order to reach a verdict. In other words, three of them could disagree completely, but as long as 9 people signed the verdict, it would pass.

 

They talked for over an hour while I sat in the courtroom with my family. Finally, at 6:30 they told the Bailiff that they were ready.

 

After we had taken our places, they filed into the courtroom and handed the judge the verdict. He read it and then asked the foreman (a woman) to announce it to the courtroom.

 

“We the jury find that the Defendant Leah Townsend is 25% at fault and the Plaintiff is 75% at fault. The fair amount for damages that this accident caused or contributed to cause is $50,000.”

 

The judge then said “The verdict was signed by 11 jurors. Defendant Leah Townsend will pay the Plaintiff 25% which is $12,500.”

 

Because Mr. Phillips already received money from workman’s comp, he has to pay 1/3 of what he got from us to workman’s comp. He also has to pay Bradshaw 25% of what he received, although Bradshaw’s actual expenses were $8,000. Without considering the money he has to pay out, the full amount of what Mr. Phillips received is a little less than 1/50th of the amount he originally asked for. Hm, maybe one shouldn’t try to be so greedy.

 

One thing I must admit: my faith in the human race has been restored. Though, it’s not to the point of me believing that anarchy will ever be possible; I don’t see myself forgetting the Eddie Phillips’ of the world any time soon.

 Thanks to all of you who were thinking of me and sending your encouraging words and thoughts my way!

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7 Responses

  1. So you have to pay 12.5K?
    Sounds like you did great during the trial. Wish it would have ended even better though.

  2. Actually, my insurance will pay it. We have a limit of $100,000; as long as the ammount is less than that, I don’t have to actually pay it. Considering the fact that they were trying to make us pay half a million, I’m pretty happy!

  3. yay! I’m sure you were SO relieved. It’s very cool that he has to pay back workman’s comp and all that… people just need to learn to deal with life instead of blaming everyone for everything.

    Way to go. Happy for you!

  4. Glad thats all over for you!!!!

  5. Thanks!

  6. What a load off of your shoulders. Good for you!

  7. I’m glad it’s behind you!

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