Arguments over driver reaction times often play a crucial role in car accident cases. In one of CVN's most impressive defense verdicts of 2017, Matthew Moffett’s cogent closing and a focus on split-second decision-making helped carry a jury decision for a driver who struck and killed a pedestrian in a crosswalk.
Brandon Lanier was killed when he was struck by a truck driven by TriEst Ag Group employee Riley Hulsey. Lanier had just entered the crosswalk, when Hulsey, who had been stopped at the intersection, made a right turn and hit Lanier.
The plaintiff noted the intersection's "walk" sign had not yet turned solid red at the time of the crash and contended Hulsey was likely distracted and failed to see Lanier when he made his turn.
However, Hulsey and TriEst’s attorney, Gray, Rust, St. Amand, Moffett & Brieske’s Matthew Moffett argued Lanier was actually the man at fault.
Police dash cam video of the collision served as the pivotal evidence in the case, and Moffett made the video a central piece of his argument. In his closing, Moffett reminded jurors Lanier remained on the sidewalk the five seconds the pedestrian “walk” signal was lit and did not step into the curb until nearly five seconds after the crosswalk warning began to flash red. Moffett argued evidence proved Lanier likely would have been at least halfway across the intersection, and well past Hulsey’s truck, if he had stepped into the curb when the walk sign was lit. “The accident doesn’t happen if he walks on the walk signal, if he follows the signal,” Moffett said.
And importantly, Moffett told jurors, Hulsey started his turn within the same second that Lanier stepped into the crosswalk. Moffett detailed expert testimony concluding that it took about 1.5 seconds for a person to make and then act through that decision. “What does that tell us? That tells us that at the time that Mr. Hulsey—that Riley—decided to turn… it was before Mr. Lanier stepped into the road,” Moffett said. “As you’re thinking and acting through [your decision], you can’t change courses within a second. It’s not possible. And that is why this is not a valid case under these circumstances. That’s the science and the evidence that supports it.”
Jurors agreed, ultimately splitting fault equally between Lanier and Hulsey, which under Georgia’s modified comparative negligence law, barred damage recovery.
Email Arlin Crisco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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