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Dane County jury awards couple more than $1.7 million

By: Cristina Janda//September 24, 2013//

Dane County jury awards couple more than $1.7 million

By: Cristina Janda//September 24, 2013//

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VERDICT: $1,734,960

Court: Dane County Circuit Court

Injuries claimed: Spinal injuries, neck pain, fractures, headaches and other permanent injuries

First demand: $1,043,600

Special damages: Medical and related expenses, pain, loss of services, society and companionship of spouse, costs and disbursements

Date of incident: Dec. 21, 2008

Trial date: Oct. 11, 2012

Disposition date: Jan. 2, 2013

Plaintiffs’ attorneys: Thadd Llaurado of Murphy & Prachthauser SC, Milwaukee (representing the plaintiffs), and Mark Sweet of Neuberger, Wakeman, Lorenz, Griggs & Sweet, Watertown (representing involuntary plaintiff, University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics)

Defendant’s attorney: John Laubmeier of Stroud, Willink & Howard LLC, Madison

Plaintiffs’ expert witnesses: Jeffrey Peterson, engineer at Skogen Engineering Group Inc., Madison; Dr. Randall Hohenstein, chiropractor at Hohenstein Chiropractic, Milwaukee; Dr. Joseph Spurgeon, family medicine physician at Prairie Clinic SC, Sauk City; Dr. N. M. Reddy, doctor at Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, Milwaukee; and Dr. Paul Anderson of the Department of Orthopedics & Rehabilitation at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Defendant’s expert witness: Donald Marty, engineer specializing in mechanical engineering at Safety Engineering Associates Inc., Madison

After the defendant rejected the plaintiffs’ settlement offers, a Dane County jury awarded more than $1.7 million to a couple injured in a single-vehicle accident.

According to court documents, the accident occurred Dec. 21, 2008, at approximately 10:50 p.m., when a 2008 Ford F-350 pickup truck reportedly driven by Louis Breunig skidded on slippery snow and ice as it approached a curve and stop sign, rolled over one time, and landed on its wheels at the intersection of County Trunk Highway B and State Trunk Highway 60 in Sauk County.

The truck allegedly was owned by Mystic Valley Dairy LLC. Weather conditions at the time were clear with temperatures around 2 to 4 degrees Fahrenheit. Witnesses confirmed that the hard-packed, snow-covered road was glazed and icy in the area of the curve and stop sign where the accident occurred, and Breunig apparently was driving at a speed of 45 mph before he began to brake at a distance of 210 to 212 feet before the stop sign.

Plaintiff Glenn Mack reportedly was a seat-belted, front-seat passenger in the truck and his wife, Dorothy, also a plaintiff in the suit, was in the middle seat of the truck’s back row. There were a couple other passengers, as well.

Following the accident, Glenn Mack, 73, was taken to Sauk Prairie Hospital by ambulance, then sent to the University Hospital in Madison by Med Flight.

He was found to have multiple fractures of the cervical spine and subsequently underwent spinal fusion from posterior approach between the segments of C5 and T3 and vertebrae. A C3 to C7 spinous process fracture also was noted, and extensive intraspinous ligament edema was evident.

He underwent pedicle screw fixation with rods, and after a short stay at the UW Hospital, he was discharged to Maplewood Residential Nursing Care Facility for extensive physical rehabilitation.

He also later underwent C3-4, C4-5, C5-6 and C6-7 discectomy and anterior approach spinal fusion in November 2009.

Initial X-rays for Dorothy Mack reportedly did not show immediate findings of concern, but she experienced back pain and obtained consultation with an orthopedic spine specialist, Dr. Mark Flanum. His evaluation discerned a T12 vertebral compression fracture with concern for injury at vertebrae T9 and T10 as well.

Flanum placed Dorothy in a brace and monitored her progress. She continued to experience pain in her back, however, which experts for the plaintiffs opined would be of a permanent nature.

The plaintiffs and involuntary plaintiffs (United Commercial Travelers of America, Kathleen Sebelius as Secretary of Department of Health and Human Services, Admiral Life Insurance Co. of America, Pacificare Life and Health Insurance Co. and University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics) brought the lawsuit against Breunig’s automobile insurer, Rural Mutual Insurance Co. Breunig died sometime after the accident and was never a party to the lawsuit.

Glenn Mack offered to settle the action for $950,000. Dorothy Mack filed a second statutory offer of settlement, in the lesser amount of $93,600.

The case instead went to trial, and Dane County jurors awarded Glenn and Dorothy Mack damages totaling $1,734,960.

The award for Glenn Mack consisted of $298,037 for past medical, surgical, and related expenses; $75,000 for future medical, surgical, and related expenses; $750,000 for past pain, suffering, and disability; and $300,000 for future pain, suffering and disability.

The award for Dorothy Mack consisted of $31,923 for past medical, surgical and related expenses; $25,000 for future medical, surgical and related expenses; $65,000 for past pain, suffering and disability; and $40,000 for future pain, suffering and disability.

The jury additionally awarded $50,000 for Glenn’s loss of services, society and companionship of his wife, Dorothy, and $100,000 for Dorothy’s loss of her husband’s services, society and companionship.

After the verdict, the parties signed a stipulation and order for dismissal, approved by Judge Ellen Berz on Jan. 2, 2013.


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