$5.5 Mil. Awarded in Lawrence County Case Over Fatal Crash

, The Legal Intelligencer



A $5.5 million verdict has been awarded in a wrongful-death case to the parents of a man who died shortly after his vehicle was struck by a tractor-trailer.

The verdict in McConnell v. Guru Global Logistics was handed up by a Lawrence County jury late last month to plaintiffs Vickie and Mark A. McConnell, the parents of then-22-year-old Mark A. McConnell II, who was struck in his car by a tractor-trailer driven by defendant Andrew V. Johnson.

This is the largest Lawrence County verdict to have been reported by The Legal over the past 20 years, according to information compiled in The Legal's annual magazine, PaLaw. According to PaLaw, Lombardo v. Gardner, a $2.79 million medical malpractice verdict in 2006, was formerly the top Lawrence County verdict.

The jury found Johnson 30 percent negligent and the additional defendant, Johnson's alleged joint-employer, Guru Global Logistics LLC, 70 percent negligent. The jury apportioned $2.1 million to loss of future earning capacity; a total of $3 million to Mark McConnell II's parents for loss of services, society and comfort; and $365,000 for conscious pain and suffering.

Johnson's attorney, Robert Grimm of Swartz Campbell in Pittsburgh, said that a separate case against Johnson's other joint-employer, Howard Truckline—relating to the same accident—settled for a confidential amount on the first day of trial. Grimm confirmed that Howard Truckline had a $1 million insurance policy.

The attorney for the McConnell family, Jeffrey B. Killino of the Philadelphia-based Killino Firm, said that there was no high-low agreement in the Guru case, and that the settlement from the Howard Truckline case does not offset any portion of the award against Guru.

Killino said the case served as an example that large verdicts are still attainable in Pennsylvania's rural counties, despite popular belief.

"This is significant because you have [a] $5.5 million [verdict] in the counties," Killino said. "That shows you can get substantial verdicts out in the counties and not just Allegheny or Philadelphia."

Post-trial motions are pending in the case, Killino said.

According to the plaintiffs' pretrial memorandum, on Aug. 18, 2008, Johnson's truck was idling on an on-ramp leading into an intersection while he waited inside for instructions from one of his joint-employers as to where he would be traveling.

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