Ken and Leslie Richardet and Eugene and Virginia Sturm claimed they were seriously injured when their Corvettes were hit from behind by a delivery truck on the Highway 24 bridge over the Ohio River between Kentucky and Illinois.
The Richardets and Sturms sued the Carbondale, Illinois, hardware store that owned the truck and the hardware store employee who was driving the truck for negligence. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois. The Richardets and Sturms later amended their complaint to state a claim for spoliation of evidence because the truck had been destroyed.
Fox Smith attorneys John Allen and Richard Korn represented the hardware store and the driver. Recognizing that liability was a virtual certainty, and realizing the risk of defending against a spoliation claim, John and Richard decided to admit fault, and they tried the case to a jury in the federal court in East St. Louis on damages alone.
By admitting fault, John and Richard were able to argue to the jury that the case was not about what caused the accident, but about what the accident caused, thereby shifting the focus of the case from the truck and the accident to the plaintiffs’ claimed damages. Mainly through deposition cross-examination of plaintiffs’ own treating doctors, John and Richard were able to convince the jury that the accident did not cause all of the injuries the plaintiffs were claiming.
In closing argument, plaintiffs’ counsel asked the jury to award the plaintiffs more than $1,366,000 in damages. John and Richard asked the jury to award the plaintiffs $120,000 in total damages. After three days of testimony and about eight hours of deliberation, the jury awarded the Richardets and the Sturms only $113,000 in total damages.