My Day in Court

A little over two years ago, I was in an accident with the Company Truck.  I was making a left hand turn into the driveway of Krewstown Road Shopping Center in North East Philadelphia.  I was turning out of a “Left Hand Turn Only Lane” going North.  And the traffic light 50 feet north of the driveway had a “Left Hand Turn Only Green Arrow Light” on, meaning that the road Southwards was completely clear as the intersection was clearly marked “No Right Turn on Red”.

With me having the Green Arrow, it was safe to make my left.  As I was heading for the driveway, there was a sudden roar.  My first thought was that a jet plane was taking off from North East Philadelphia Airport less than a half mile away.  However, it turned out to be a motorcyclist going through the traffic intersection at high speed towards the side of the truck.  It seemed that the motorcyclist noticed the big white truck and left his bike to become a missile that struck the side of the truck, while he slid down the road (with no helmet I might add).

I stopped the truck in the driveway to figure out what happened.  Luckily before I had gotten out of the cab, there were police cars on the scene.  They immediately ran to the guy in the street, and I was in shock and just sat on the bumper of the truck, not knowing what I could do.  Long story shortened, an ambulance was there in minutes, motorcyclist taken to hospital. Police questioned me, very nice sergeant.  But he explained that within the past year, there were left hand turns into the driveway prohibited, although there was not a “Do Not Enter” sign on the driveway, but a bit south there was a “No Left Turn” sign on the “Left Hand Turn Only” Lane (?).  In any case, the sergeant said that he had no choice but to give me a summons for “failure to obey a control device” which involved No Points.  Which I accepted.

Of course, being a company truck, and his contingency lawyer knowing that corporations must carry a minimum of $1,000,000 coverage, the motorcyclist filed a $5,000,000 lawsuit against the company.  What else is new you say?

The opposing attorney, let’s call him Thomas, had sued the company a couple of times before under a couple of Workers Comp Claims, and he has taken depositions from me in the past.  In his previous case against the company, (I really have no idea how I was dragged into it) I was deposed, and it turned out that my deposition was very useful to the company, and Thomas got a minimum settlement.

So when the papers for this case were served on me, I was distressed to see that the Plaintiff’s attorney was Thomas!  When we met at the deposition for this current case in August of 2017, he came at me blazing! (with questions).  And the way he words those questions is, shall I say obscure?  One hardly knows how to answer!  Luckily, the defending attorney, let’s call him Greg, coached me carefully to say that if I had trouble understanding the question, I should ask Thomas to rephrase.  And I had to do that several times.

Greg, thought that I had done well, however, since technically since the driveway had a “No Left Hand Turn” sign, that we would technically have to stipulate that I had made a mistake in turning left. Anyway the case was scheduled for October the 15th 2018, with Jury selection beginning today the 12th.  Greg, on the phone, had told me the other week, that Thomas was playing hardball, refusing any settlement and going after whatever he could wangle out of the jury. Greg told me that I would have to appear for the company to have any chance with the jury.  Apparently Thomas was hoping that since I was an “out-of-stater”, that I would refuse to show up and that would swing the jury.

I was very nervous about how Thomas would treat me on Cross-Examination, but could see no choice but to appear.  However, I had heard nothing from Greg until yesterday at noontime when I was visiting my mother at Baker Place.  His call then, was to the effect that there was no settlement, and there was no choice but I had to appear in courtroom #246 in the Philadelphia City Hall the next day at 0900 hours!


Interregnum

Ever since I retired 18 months ago, I have become very reticent to drive. In fact recently I have only to fill up my tank with gas once a month.  I generally have to drive no more than 8-10 miles a day. So I never considered driving into Philadelphia and then having to look for a place to park.  Instead, I decided to drive to Lindenwold, NJ and take the Patco High Speed Line into Philadelphia.  I planned to take the train to 15th Street Stationon Locust Ave, and then walk through the concourse to the City Hall.

While this was a good plan (even though the round trip ticket is $6, the bridge toll would have been $5!.) The plan was to become less tenable as I checked out the route.  I decided that I would have to leave the Lindenwold Station by 0800 hours.  Which meant that with a 43 minute driving time from Minotola, I should leave my apartment complex by 0700 hours, meaning that I should get up at around 0530 hours. So I needed to set an alarm clock, something that I have not had to do since the time when I had to get up early to catch a flight down to Florida!


Jury Selection Day

I made the transit to Lindenwold with little trouble.  The train itself with all of the stops left the station just after 0800 hours, and we were at the Philly end 30 minutes later.  The real problem came in the underground concourse that allows one to walk from the station to City Hall underground and out of the weather. However, there were all sorts of homeless, using their ‘flattened out’ cardboard boxes for mattresses settling down.  And the smell of urine was all though the concourse!

I was glad to make it to City Hall Underground, and then I took the elevator up to street level (steep staircases make me nervous anymore) and the fresh ‘sort of’ city air!  I was outside of the courtroom by 0900 hours and met with Greg. We went over my ‘depo’ quickly, and he told me that they were scheduled to start the jury selection at 1000 hours.

Around 0915 or so, Thomas came over smiling, he spoke briefly to Greg, and then came at me with a Big Grin, hand outstretched saying; “I’m glad to see you again Paul, and I’ve looking forward to questioning you!”.

[I’ve got to say, it is a bit nerve-wracking when the plaintiff’s lawyer knows you by first name, greets you with a funny grin, and then says that he is looking forward to the cross-examination!]

Well, 0950 hours came and nothing seemed to be happening, then the court clerk came over and asked Greg to go with the insurance adjuster into the Judges chambers. Greg told me to just sit tight.  He and the adjuster were gone about a half hour.  When they came back, it was to tell me that the jury would be let go, and there was a settlement.  But Thomas came over again and said that he would not agree to ‘confidentiality’. (I was not sure what that meant, but I did hear Thomas say something about this would not impact Mr. Dute).  But the adjuster said, that was not the deal!

Upshot, they went back to chambers for about another 15 minutes, and this time when they came out Thomas was heard to say, “OK, confidentiality is called, satisfied?”. And that apparently ended the case sine die.

I did ask about the settlement and was told it was for 1.6 million, since the unhelmeted motorcyclist was a Union Worker making over $60K annually and was entitled to his wages for the next 25 years expected working lifetime! Making it sickeningly clear, that I should have fallen down, claimed that my back hurt, my knee hurt instead of claiming that “I was fine!”.  Clearly I had not been in touch with the modern world of “Legal Get All You Can Get!”. Especially since this High School dropout Union guy was making almost twice what I had been making.  I guess, that I am just not smart enough for modern day contingency lawyers.

So, I left the City Hall and this time I did not take the underground concourse, but walked out in the cool wind to the 15th and Locust Street Station  before braving the underground, and taking the Patco High Speed Line back to New Jersey.  I was so glad to get out of the city and back to the countryside for my drive back home.

But at least, I know what to do next time I have an accident. Get out and fall to the ground screaming “My Back, My Back, I’m Never Going to Walk Again” then give a call to my niece the lawyer on the cellphone!

2 thoughts on “My Day in Court”

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