A Cook County jury returned a $3.1 Million verdict for the death of a 40-year- old unemployed homemaker woman struck and killed in a hit and run collision. The jury awarded, $1 Million for 10 seconds of pain and suffering, a significant award for that element of damages for that period of time. Plaintiff alleged the hit and run was committed by a yellow school bus on its morning route to take children to school. The following day, after the hit and run, the police inspected the yellow bus, and later performed a detailed inspection with evidence technicians, and found no damage to the bus and no evidence that the vehicle struck the pedestrian.
No one was charged with the hit and run. Through the use of surveillance video from an ATM camera 2 blocks away, captured by the police and enhanced by the plaintiff, plaintiff was able to identify an unnamed yellow school bus and correlate it through time records with the bus driver’s route and a witness who did not see the collision but saw the bus leaving the scene. Despite the driver, a church deacon, denying that he struck a pedestrian and denials of anything unusual from children on the bus, plaintiffs were able to prove that the driver struck the pedestrian in the crosswalk and dragged her for 500 feet down the street.
The defense retained accident reconstructionist, John Goebelbecker and world-renowned forensic pathologist from the Drew Peterson case and others, Dr. Michael Baden, who both opined that the physical evidence was inconsistent with the decedent having been dragged 500 feet by a bus. They each further opined that at 5 foot and 291 lbs. she was too fat to fit under the bus and her lack of injuries as well as little roadway evidence of dragging were inconsistent with a bus causing her injuries and death.
Before trial, the defendant offered $500,000 to settle the case. After closing arguments, and minutes before the jury came back, the defendants made a final offer of $1.5 million, which was rejected. Joseph A. Power, Jr. of our law firm, lead counsel on the case stated, “The jury worked hard and appreciated the tragic nature of Mrs. Valadez’s pain and suffering as evidenced by their award of $1 Million in damages for the brief time she was under the bus.” The sole heir, Mr. Valadez, was awarded $2.1 Million for the loss of his wife’s society and services. Mr. Valadez was represented by Joseph A. Power, Jr. and Larry R. Rogers, Jr. of Power Rogers Positive Connections, Inc. was represented by William Johnson and Joseph Spitzerri of Johnson & Bell.