It’s often difficult to prove liability against a company for the actions of an individual it did not directly employ. That’s the situation Slappey & Sadd’s Jay Sadd faced at trial against a medical transport company for a paratransit accident he argued left a passenger a double amputee. Sadd’s closing argument, however, established the connection the jury needed to find the company responsible for a share of the accident.
In 2012, Patricia Smith, a left-leg amputee traveling in a Logisticare LLC-contracted paratransit van to a dialysis appointment, fell from her wheelchair as the van struck a pothole. She was not safety belted and suffered crush fractures to her left arm and right leg, ultimately requiring her arm to be amputated and rendering her right leg useless, Sadd told jurors. Smith, who had lived in her own home before the accident, spent three years in a nursing home afterward. Although she was ultimately able to return to her home, she now has the use of only one limb and requires complete assistance, Sadd said.
Smith, now 63, claims Logisticare breached its duties under its transportation agreement with the Georgia Department of Community Health, or DCH, by failing to properly monitor or supervise Alicia Mathis Gardner, the paratransit van’s driver and an employee of MIDS, the company Logisticare contracted with to provide paratransit transportation.
Logisiticare claimed it had no responsibility for the accident because MIDS operated as an independent contractor. However, Sadd argued Logisticare breached its duties under its contract with the state by failing to properly train or supervise MIDS and its drivers.
Although Logisticare contended it conducted spot checks of MIDS drivers, Sadd told jurors the fact Smith had been traveling generally unbelted in Gardner’s van three times a week for three months before the accident belied Logisticare’s claims of proper monitoring.
“It shouldn’t take a doggone lawsuit for them to find out that they had an employee that wasn’t strapping somebody down for three months,” Sadd said.
Sadd told jurors Smith’s injuries were the natural result of Logisticare’s failure to train or check drivers, as required by its state contract. “You can’t just let companies monitor themselves. You can’t just let the transportation provider say ‘Hey, hey, hey! I’m doing a bad job over here; come monitor me! Hey, I’m doing a bad job!’
“No. People don’t do that. But the relationship will go on and on for almost 20 years. It just rocks on and on, and on. And the system is broken, broken, broken. And eventually, it does something like this to Ms. Smith,” Sadd told jurors.
Sadd’s compelling closing led the jury to deliver a $5 million verdict and hold Logisticare 36% responsible for the crash.
Email Arlin Crisco at email@example.com.
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