Katie Sneeringer, 27, was driving a car in the left lane of a highway with her husband, Peter Sneeringer, 29, and her father, David Cook, 58, as belted passengers. Traffic in the lane was directed to merge because of a construction zone ahead, and the cars had slowed to a stop in both the right and left lanes. Sneeringer was stopped in the left lane when Spencer Chapman, driving a tractor-trailer for GLC Transportation, Inc., in the right lane veered into the left lane at a high speed and rear-ended her car.
Cook suffered fatal blunt-force trauma and was killed instantly. He is survived by his wife and two adult daughters. At the time of his death, he was working as a manager for an elevator company and earning about $140,000 annually.
Peter Sneeringer suffered a traumatic brain injury resulting in significant motor and cognitive impairments. He now has difficulty with thought processing and communication, and he requires the assistance of a walker. His past medical expenses totaled about $297,500, and his estimated future medical expenses and life-care costs exceed $10 million. A motorcycle salesman earning about $28,000 annually at the time of the incident, he is now permanently disabled.
Katie Sneeringer suffered a fractured thoracic vertebra, from which she recovered. She also suffered emotional distress from witnessing the injuries to her husband and father. She missed some time from work and incurred a small amount of past lost earnings.
Katie and Peter Sneeringer, together with Cook’s wife on behalf of his estate, sued Chapman, GLC Transportation, and several related corporate defendants. The plaintiffs alleged that Chapman was negligent in failing to keep a proper lookout and in rear-ending the Sneeringer car. Suit against the corporate defendants alleged vicarious liability for Chapman’s negligence. The plaintiffs presented evidence that the truck’s “black box” indicated that it was traveling at about 71.5 mph at the time of the collision.
Chapman argued that he was unable to see the stopped traffic because of road glare. He also argued that he was following another truck going at the same speed, and the other truck quickly moved into the left lane, exposing him suddenly to the stopped traffic ahead.
The parties mediated a settlement of $26.1 million, to be paid by the corporate defendants’ joint insurer.
Citation: Sneeringer v. GLC Transp., Inc., No. 001252 (Pa., Phila. Co. Com. Pleas June 5, 2012).
Plaintiff counsel: AAJ member Alan M. Feldman, Daniel J. Mann, and Edward S. Goldis, all of Philadelphia.
Plaintiff experts: David A. Stopper, accident reconstruction, Broad Run, Va.; Walter A. Guntharp Jr., truck operation in emergency situations, Pendleton, Ind.; Henry P. Lipian, accident reconstruction/trucking/biomechanics, Grafton, Ohio; Guy W. Fried, physical medicine/rehabilitation, Langhorne, Pa.; and Brenda M. Ivker, clinical neuropyschology, Philadelphia.