A collision in the middle of the intersection of 11th and Filbert Streets in Philadelphia left a 48-year-old unemployed woman permanently injured. She was a passenger in a car driven by her husband when it was struck violently on the passenger side by a hospital patient transport van bearing the logo of a major university medical center in Philadelphia. Eyewitnesses and the van’s driver and passenger (emergency medical personnel) were consistent in their testimony that the victim’s husband had caused the accident by traveling through a red light and into the intersection. His injured wife had no recollection of the events of the incident. The van’s driver and passenger also claimed injuries and wage losses.
Attorney Roberta D. Pichini represented the injured wife. Faced with numerous videotaped depositions of the eyewitnesses, which appeared to absolve the van’s driver of any negligence, Pichini aggressively pursued discovery focusing on the van driver’s actions and conduct during the hours before the incident. The van driver was deposed twice due to the failure to produce critical discovery. Withheld statements contained new and damaging admissions revealing that, at the time of the incident, the van driver was not attending to patient transport, but instead was on her way out of center city on a personal mission. Pichini argued that this contributed to a failure to attend properly to her driving, and that she, accordingly, bore some responsibility for the incident despite her having had the green light.
The months before trial were dominated by litigation over who could be held to be vicariously liable for the van driver’s actions. The van driver was admittedly employed by an agency, also a defendant, which had contracted with the hospital patient transport corporation to provide van drivers and vans. This agency, however, had failed to obtain contractually-required excess liability insurance and its available limits were inadequate to compensate the plaintiff. The hospital patient transport corporation, another defendant, disclaimed any vicarious liability and argued that only the hiring agency was legally responsible for the van driver. Extensive discovery was conducted in order to demonstrate that the hospital transport corporation did indeed direct certain of the actions of the driver on the day of the incident. Pichini was able to defeat a summary judgment motion on this issue filed by the hospital patient transport corporation, thus permitting the argument that this entity could be held vicariously responsible and that its insurance should be offered in settlement.
Years of exhaustive discovery on all issues by Pichini, coupled with the investigation by a highly-skilled accident reconstructionist, and expert input by life care planners, medical experts, vocational experts, and economists, finally led to a settlement in the amount of $2.5 million.