Henry Jontony, 48, was driving eastbound when a westbound police officer responding to a nonemergency call turned his cruiser directly into Jontony’s path. Jontony was unable to avoid hitting the cruiser. He suffered a head injury from the impact.
Jontony was diagnosed with a concussion and back and neck strains and released from the hospital the next day. In the days following the incident, however, he began vomiting and suffering from nausea and dizziness. When he attempted to return to work as a master carpenter several months later, his coworkers noticed that he was slow, inaccurate, and confused, and on at least one occasion, he behaved aggressively. Eight months after the incident, he was diagnosed as having sustained a traumatic brain injury.
The injury left Jontony with permanent cognitive and behavioral problems, including problems with communication, short-term memory, anger management, and impulse control. He also has extreme difficulty filtering out background noises, so that he is unable to be in a room where more than one person is talking or where a ventilation system is blowing. Visual stimulation bothers him as well. His past medical expenses totaled about $41,000, and his future medical expenses and life-care costs are estimated at about $5 million. He was earning about $55,000 at the time of the incident but is now permanently disabled.
Jontony, his wife, and their two adult children sued the police officer and the city that employed him. The plaintiffs alleged that the officer was negligent in turning into Jontony’s path while responding to a nonemergency call. Suit also alleged that the city was vicariously liable for the officer’s actions. The officer was dismissed after the city stipulated that it was negligent and responsible for the officer’s negligence.
In a trial on damages, the city disputed the nature and extent of Jontony’s brain injury and his need for future care, arguing that he was still able to drive and live at home with his family.
The jury awarded just under $1.11 million, including $50,000 to Jontony’s wife for loss of consortium. The trial court denied the defendant’s motion for judgment n.o.v. Several other posttrial motions are pending.
Citation: Jontony v. Colegrove, No. CV-08-677987 (Ohio, Cuyahoga Co. Com. Pleas July 1, 2011).
Plaintiff counsel: AAJ member Mark J. Obral, Thomas J. Silk, and AAJ member Alexander L. Pal, all of Cleveland.
Plaintiff experts: Fred M. Ovsiew, neuropsychiatry, Chicago; and Barry Layton, neuropsychology, Steven Houser, otolaryngology, and Lawrence McNamee, radiology, all of Cleveland.