Cook County Jury Decides for Defendants in Rear-End, Four-Car Chain Reaction Crash

On July 18, 2010, Natalie Cozzi, defendant Sergio Ramirez and Caitlyn Hopkins were involved in a four-car crash on the Dan Ryan Expressway near Washington Street in Chicago, Ill.  The crash took place at about 1:30 a.m. in the southbound lanes.  The chain reaction started when a “phantom” black SUV came to an abrupt stop in front of Cozzi, who claimed that she was able to make a complete stop 3-4 feet behind the SUV.

But after Cozzi stopped, she was rear-ended at high speed by the defendant Ramirez, who was driving a Ford F-150 pickup truck.  The impact pushed Cozzi into the rearend of the black SUV. 

The other defendant, Hopkins, then rear-ended Ramirez at high speed, causing a second rear impact to Cozzi’s car. The black SUV fled the scene after the crash. Cozzi, age 26, claimed that the crash injured her, causing a herniated or bulging disc at L3-4 with facet joint arthropathy and chronic low back pain. She had more than $23,000 in medical expenses and lost 7 ½ months of work as a union electrician. Cozzi’s claimed lost time from work was $53,328.

There were photos of the vehicle after the crash that were allowed into evidence and considered by the jury. The photos showed extensive damage to both of the defendants’ vehicles and lesser damage to the front and rear of the Cozzi car. 

Ramirez, age 27, testified that he saw Cozzi rear-end the black SUV after it made a sudden stop, but he was not able to stop in time and rear-ended the plaintiff after she struck the SUV.  Cozzi testified that she did not hit the SUV until she was pushed into it by Ramirez. The Illinois state trooper who investigated the crash testified at trial that Cozzi told him  the black SUV suddenly stopped in front of her, and that she was unable to stop in time and her car was rear-ended by Ramirez. 

The defendants argued that the driver of the SUV caused the crash and Cozzi was accusing the defendants of exactly the same conduct she was guilty of, that being, unable to avoid rear-ending the car ahead of her after a sudden, unexpected stop. 

The defendants also maintained that if Cozzi was injured in the crash, it may have occurred when she initially rear-ended the SUV and further disputed her 7 ½ months of lost income as she admitted taking two vacations to Hawaii and New Orleans. In addition, the defendants said  Cozzi was weight-lifting at her fitness center while she was off work. The jury’s verdict was in favor of the defendants.

Natalie Cozzi v. Sergio Ramirez, Caitlyn Hopkins, No. 11 L 4377 (Cook County).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling automobile accidents, truck accidents, bicycle crashes and motorcycle accidents for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 37 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Chicago (Jefferson Park, Portage Park, Portage Village, Garfield Park, Lawndale, Marquette Park, Burnside, Lake Calumet, East Side, Hyde Park, Oakland, Bronzeville and Pilsen), Ill.

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