Tennessee jury hits YRC with $2M verdict in crash lawsuit
September 5, 2019
After a more than two-year court battle, a Tennessee jury has found a YRC driver responsible for a crash, putting the company on the hook for more than $2 million to be awarded to an injured Georgia woman. However, a pending state Supreme Court case could reduce the final verdict amount.
On Aug. 21, a jury in the U.S. District Court at Chattanooga, Tenn., found YRC 100% responsible for a crash that left Sylvia Stephenson severely injured. According to court documents, YRC has been ordered to pay the following:
- $1 million for permanent injury.
- $500,000 for pain and suffering.
- $500,000 for loss of enjoyment of life.
- $138,000 for medical expenses.
Stephenson v. YRC
On July 25, 2016, Stephenson was driving her 2012 Honda Civic in the left westbound lane of Interstate 24 approaching the Interstate 75 interchange in Hamilton County, Tenn. At the same time YRC’s Charles Pridemore was driving a 2005 Volvo tractor-trailer in the left westbound lane of I-24.
As Stephenson controlled her speed to allow other drivers to merge onto the highway, Pridemore struck her vehicle from behind, according to the lawsuit. The complaint accuses Pridemore of being distracted and following too closely, the latter of which Pridemore was cited for by the investigating officer.
Typical of injury lawsuits, the complaint also names YRC as a defendant for negligent hiring, negligent training and negligent supervising.
Court documents state that Stephenson experienced nervousness and general soreness immediately after the crash. Her pain and discomfort worsened as she suffered stiffness and intermittent muscle spasms in her neck. MRIs taken of her spine approximately two weeks after the crash showed a central disc extrusion with herniated disc.
Nearly two months after the crash, Stephenson underwent cervical spine surgery. Although the surgery was successful, Stephenson continued to feel lower back pain and discomfort.
In a letter sent to YRC’s insurance company, Stephenson’s attorney explained that in addition to the more than $160,000 in medical bills, “a modest future-pain-and-suffering award on a per annum basis would push this verdict well into seven figures” given the fact Stephenson likely has “decades left to live.” Citing the insurance policy of $6 million in liability coverage, attorneys offered to settle the claim for $900,000.
Verdict on hold
Despite the jury reaching a verdict, the battle is not completely over for YRC. According to court documents, Judge Travis R. McDonough has ordered to hold the case for 60 days or until the Tennessee Supreme Court decides on a case that is relevant to the jury’s verdict, whichever comes first.
In the McClay v. Airport Management Services case, Jodi McClay was awarded $1,374,500 in her civil suit. The jury verdict included $444,500 for future medical expenses and $930,000 for noneconomic damages, which includes pain/suffering, permanent injury and loss of enjoyment of life.
However, Tennessee state law has capped noneconomic damages at $750,000. Airport Management Services has appealed to the state Supreme Court to reduce the verdict to $1,194,500 to reflect that cap. Oral arguments for that case were heard on Wednesday, Sept. 4.
If the Tennessee Supreme Court rules in favor of McClay, it could potentially eliminate that cap and uphold the nearly $1.4 million in that case. Consequently, YRC will still be on the hook for more than $2 million.
If the high court agrees with Airport Management Services, the noneconomic damages cap stands. If that were to be the case, YRC could pay as little as $888,000 rather than $2.14 million.