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Jurors side mostly with driver injured on foggy rural road

A southeast Missouri man won $700,000 in a trial stemming from an accident on a misty rural highway.

“They fought us due to the fog,” said plaintiff’s attorney Brent Sumner.

Sumner represented Warren Martin, who was traveling on a highway in Scott County when teenager Steven Peters pulled out in front of him. The attorney said that Martin, who was traveling about 50 mph, slammed on the brakes but had no chance to stop in time, resulting in a crash that mangled the front of the plaintiff’s truck and knocked the tailgate off the defendant’s pickup while spinning it 180 degrees.

An ambulance transported Martin to the hospital, where he was treated and released. He later underwent a one-level cervical disc replacement and a three-level cervical disc replacement before making a good recovery.

Bradley Hansmann of Brown & James, who defended the case, said his client took photos of the scene right after the accident that showed the limited visibility.

“It was our contention that the fog was so heavy that even though he looked before he pulled out, he wasn’t able to see the plaintiff’s vehicle,” he said.

However, Sumner felt that the photos helped the plaintiff.

“It showed that visibility was enough that you could see telephone poles and you could see the outline of a house in the distance and trees and things like that,” he said.

Jurors found $1 million in damages but allocated 30 percent of the fault to the plaintiff.

Despite the plaintiff’s verdict, Hansmann said that, with more than $350,000 in special damages in a case of failure to yield and limited causation defenses, he felt that a net award of $700,000 was a decent outcome.

Correction: An earlier version of this post contained the incorrect text. We regret the error.

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$1 million verdict

Motor vehicle collision

Venue: Scott County Circuit Court

Case Number/Date: 17SO-CV01383/April 6, 2022

Judge: David Dolan

Plaintiffs’ Experts: Matthew Gornet, Chesterfield (orthopedic surgeon)

Defendants’ Experts: Benjamin Crane, St. Louis (orthopedic surgeon); Kevin Johnson, Zionsville, Indiana (accident reconstruction)

Special Damages: $318,150.66 in medical bills; $41,267.42 in lost wages

Last Pretrial Demand: $1,400,000 million

Last Pretrial Offer: $225,000

Insurer: State Auto Insurance Company

Caption: Warren Martin v. Steven W. Peters

Plaintiff’s Attorneys: Brent Sumner and Andrew Martin, Sumner Law Group, St. Louis

Defendant’s Attorney: Bradley Hansmann, Brown & James, St. Louis