Chicago Cab Driver Hits Lawyer – 594,245 Verdict Exceeds Cab Company’s Policy Limits in Sojka v. Papadopoulus, et al.

There’s an old saying that goes “never kid a kidder.” Well, there should also be a saying to “never hit a lawyer,” because if you do, chances are you are in for a lengthy and expensive legal battle. No one knows this better than Chicago cab driver Nick Papadopoulos who ran into a Chicago lawyer who was walking in a crosswalk. In the trial that arose out of the Chicago pedestrian accident, a jury entered a $594,245 verdict against Papadopoulos and his cab company employer, an amount that actually exceeded the defendants’ insurance policy limits.

In December 2007, Bartholomew Sojka was out jogging with his dog in Chicago’s Streeterville neighborhood. As Sojka continued to jog through an intersection at Inner Lake Shore Drive and Ohio Street, he was hit by Papadopoulos’s cab. The twenty-eight year-old lawyer sustained a herniated lumbar disc as a result of the pedestrian accident. While Sojka has not yet undergone surgery to correct his back injury, his treating physician testified at trial that he is a surgical candidate for a lumbar laminectomy. However, the plaintiff stated that he is putting off the surgery due to professional obligations.

The resulting case was filed as Bartholomew Sojka v. Nick J. Papadopoulus, Alexander the Great Express, Inc., 09 L 1663. At the recent Cook County trial, both parties claimed that the other was responsible for the intersection accident. The plaintiff attorney accused the Papadopoulos of stopping at the stop sign. In addition, because Sojka was in the crosswalk at the time of the car accident, the plaintiff attorney was also able to make claims that Papadopoulos failed to yield the right of way to a pedestrian in the crosswalk. This would have been a much more difficult case to make if Sojka had been hit while crossing the street in the middle of a block.

Both the cab driver, Papadopoulos, and the cab company, Alexander the Great Express, Inc., were represented by the same defense attorney. In presenting his case, the defense attorney argued that the plaintiff and his running was the cause of the Chicago pedestrian accident. The attorney contended that by running into the street, the plaintiff left a “place of safety,” which resulted in him running into the door of the defendants’ cab. While one could argue that an intersection is a “dangerous” place by pointing out the increased risks for accidents in intersections, it is hard to make the case that one should reasonably expect to be hit by a car simply by virtue of entering the intersection.

A much more convincing argument put forth by the defense was that the cab driver did not see the running lawyer because of surrounding road construction. As a Chicago driver, this line of logic is much more convincing. Not only is road construction a constant part of Chicago driving, but it is conceivable that it might block a driver’s view of a fast-moving runner. It is more likely that this line of defense was what prompted the jury to find the plaintiff 15% liable for the Chicago pedestrian accident.

Because the plaintiff was found to have been contributory negligent for the Chicago intersection accident, the original jury verdict of $594,245 was then reduced to a final award of $505,108. The verdict was composed of the following damages:

-$94,245 for past medical expenses;
-$200,000 for future medical expenses, including the lumbar surgery;
-$100,000 for past and future pain and suffering; and
-$200,000 for past and future loss of normal life.

Prior to the Cook County jury trial, the plaintiff’s attorney had made a demand to settle for the defendants’ maximum policy limits, i.e., $350,000. However, the defendants’ last offer to the plaintiff was only $50,000. If the defendants had agreed to the plaintiff’s demand prior to trial, they would have saved over $150,000. Instead they opted to go head to head against a lawyer in court, a decision they dearly paid for.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Illinois pedestrian accident lawsuits for over 35 years, serving individuals and families in and around Chicago, Cook County, and surrounding areas, including Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood, Cicero, Evanston, and Blue Island.

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