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Trans Am driver loses bid for punitive damages

A man whose classic car was hit from behind will take home an award of more than $41,000 for property damage and bodily injury but will not receive punitive damages or pain-and-suffering compensation.

Douglas Johnson sued Ivan Ordonez in March 2018 after Johnson was struck from behind by the latter’s Toyota while at a stoplight in Nixa. Johnson was driving a restored 1978 Trans Am, which the suit estimated was worth more than $50,000.

The defendant did not contest liability, but Johnson also filed a claim for punitive damages, alleging that Ordonez was intoxicated, said David A. Nester of Boggs, Avellino, Lach & Boggs, which represented Ordonez. There was no evidence that Ordonez was intoxicated during the crash in January 2016, Nester said.

Nester said that Johnson, a DEA agent, also claimed more than $365,000 in lost wages after retiring early, allegedly due to hand injuries sustained in the crash.

“The testimony of the chiropractor was that he thought that [Johnson] could possibly have a permanent injury, but the cross-examination was that that was a subjective complaint,” Nester said. “There were no objective findings that would indicate a continued injury to his right hand.”

He also tried to minimize the impact of the retirement though the plaintiff said he had previously hoped to work another five years.

The defendant denied any intoxication, and Nester said the judge dismissed the punitive-damage claim.

“They called a police officer to testify that at the scene he thought there was evidence my client was drinking,” he said. “As it turned out, there was no evidence of drinking because they didn’t charge him with DUI or DWI.”

He also said that Ordonez had been tested and observed at the hospital just after the accident and showed no evidence of drunkenness or alcohol in his bloodstream.

Jurors awarded a little more than $15,000 for Johnson’s injuries and another $26,000 for his car.

The plaintiff’s wife obtained nothing on a loss-of-consortium claim.

Two attorneys, Lynn Myers and Richard Crites, were listed for the plaintiff. Myers did not respond to a request for comment. Crites couldn’t be reached for comment.

$41,328 verdict

Motor-vehicle accident

Breakdown: $26,000 in property damage; $15,328 for bodily injury to Douglas Johnson

Venue: Christian County Circuit Court

Case Number/Date: 16CT-CC00239/March 16, 2018

Judge: Larry Luna

Plaintiffs’ Experts: Rodney Witt, Nixa (chiropractor)

Defendant’s Experts: Jimmy Ray, St. Louis (appraiser)

Special Damages: $365,000 in lost wages ($73,000 per year for 5 years); $15,328 for medical expenses

Last Pretrial Demand: $100,000

Last Pretrial Offer: $50,530

Insurer: Allstate

Caption: Douglas and Krista Johnson v. Ivan Ordonez

Plaintiffs’ Attorneys: Lynn Myers, Law Offices of R. Lynn Myers, Springfield; Richard Crites, Richard D. Crites – Attorney At Law, Springfield

Defendant’s Attorneys: David A. Nester and T. Darin Boggs, Boggs, Avellino, Lach & Boggs, St. Louis