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Jury awards motorist in crash caused by dropped cell phone

David Baugher//March 4, 2019

Jury awards motorist in crash caused by dropped cell phone

David Baugher//March 4, 2019

A crash caused by a dropped cell phone has resulted in a six-figure verdict for an injured motorist.

“It was a distracted-driving, rear-end collision where the driver of the car in back dropped his hand-held cell phone,” said Geoff Meyerkord of Meyerkord & Meyerkord. “It fell into the passenger-side foot compartment.”

Jurors awarded $200,000 to Meyerkord’s client, Jeffrey Braun, who was waiting in his car to merge when another driver, Jeffrey Schweig, lost his grip on the phone and apparently struck the rear of Braun’s car while attempting to retrieve it. According to Meyerkord, Schweig said he was not on the phone at the time.

“We said that he should have waited until he stopped or pulled over,” he said.

Meyerkord said the defense admitted responsibility for the crash in November 2015, but the plaintiff put on a full liability case anyway while Schweig’s attorney focused on damages.

Braun, who was wearing his seatbelt, suffered a “wedge fracture” in his back as well as a concussion, a lipoma, a bulging disc and a disc protrusion, according to Meyerkord. He said the defense contended that scans did not show a fracture.

Meyerkord said his firm countered the defense neurologist expert with a neuroradiologist from the same hospital who was hired on a “blind” basis.

“We didn’t tell him which side we worked with. We didn’t tell him what kind of case it was,” he said. “We gave him our name, but we made him promise not to look us up on the Internet.”

The expert indicated there was evidence of a healed fracture.

Meyerkord said challenges in the case included a lengthy gap after initial treatment, which lasted for months.

“[The defense] focused on that middle pause of treatment, but ultimately the jury was moved by our heavy use of visuals,” he said.

Those included a “cinematic deposition,” which involved post-production work to integrate multiple camera angles and split-screen scenes into video testimony.

“It is like a television show when it is finally edited,” he said. “They are very interesting for a jury to watch — much more so than a single camera.”

Expert opinions were the key to the verdict, Meyercord said.

“It was a hard-fought case,” he said. “The defense did a good job, but at the end of the day, the jury was moved by the testimony of the doctors and saw that the wedge fracture was in fact there.”

Meyerkord listed Lawrence F. Hartstein of Hartstein Law as representing the defense. He did not return a call requesting comment.

$200,000 verdict

Motor-vehicle collision

Venue: St. Louis County Circuit Court

Case Number/Date: 16SL-CC04204/Nov. 7, 2018

Judge: Joseph Walsh III

Plaintiff’s Experts: Kishan D. Yalavarthi, St. Louis, neuroradiology; Daniel Kitchens, St. Louis, neurosurgery; Richard Maack, Chesterfield, ear, nose and throat

Defendant’s Experts: Todd Silverman, St. Louis, neurology

Last Pretrial Demand: $50,000

Last Pretrial Offer: $17,500

Caption: Jeffrey Braun v. Jeffrey Schweig

Plaintiff’s Attorneys: Geoff S. Meyerkord, Meyerkord & Meyerkord, St. Louis

Defendant’s Attorneys: Lawrence F. Hartstein, Hartstein Law, St. Louis

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