Jury Reaches 897,000 Verdict in Head-On Collision After Rear-End Impact From School Bus – Fuller v. Richmond Burton High School

A McHenry County jury returned the second highest personal injury verdict in the county’s history when it entered a $897,000 verdict in the case of David Fuller v. Richmond Burton High School, District 157, et al., 07 L 317 (McHenry County). The case involved a 2007 intersection accident that occurred between the plaintiff, David Fuller, and the defendant school bus driver, Rhonda Fiumetto.

The accident occurred at the intersection of Route 173 and Lakeview Road in Richmond Township. At the time of the bus accident, Fuller was attempting to make a left-hand turn onto Lakeview Road when Fiumetto’s bus drove into Fuller’s car. Fuller’s car had been stopped at the time of impact, but the bus was going in excess of 45 mph. The force of the impact caused Fuller’s car to be pushed into oncoming traffic, at which point he was hit head-on by a minivan.

While Fuller suffered some superficial face wounds and cuts, the main outcome of the intersection accident was a compression fracture of the L2 vertebrae in Fuller’s upper spine. Within twenty-four hours of the bus accident, Fuller underwent extensive surgery to try to repair his spinal fracture. Since that time, Fuller has undergone an additional two spinal fusion surgeries. In his personal injury complaint, Fuller contended that he is permanently disabled and has lost his prior employment as a sheet metal worker.

However, the defendants disputed the nature and extent of Fuller’s injuries. Not only did the defense attempt to show that Fuller had a prior history of back pain, but also that his injuries were not as severe as he claimed. The defense attorneys pointed to Fuller’s history of back pain treatments up to three years before the bus accident, including a spinal injection he received just two weeks before the intersection crash. In addition, Fuller was taking Oxycontin for pain up to the time of the auto accident. And in an attempt to show that Fuller’s injuries were not as severe as he claimed, the defense produced a surveillance video of Fuller taken after his multiple surgeries in which he was playing bass guitar in a heavy metal rock band.

The defendants also attempted to produce an orthopedic surgery expert to refute the medical nature of Fuller’s claims. However, the judge barred the defense’s expert from testifying after he failed to make a timely appearance at the personal injury trial. It is difficult to say whether the defense expert’s testimony would have helped sway the jury; however, what is clear is that the jury was not convinced by the defendant’s case offered up at the McHenry County trial.

The McHenry County jury returned a $897,632 jury verdict for the following damages:

• $472,632 for medical expenses;
• $225,000 for lost income;
• $150,000 for pain and suffering; and
• $50,000 for disability.

The Fuller award represents the second highest McHenry County personal injury verdict in the county’s history and the highest verdict in a non-fatal personal injury verdict. A 2001 wrongful death verdict of $1.56 million still holds the place for the highest McHenry County personal injury verdict. And while the Fuller verdict is below the plaintiff’s $1.8 million demand to settle, it is higher than the defendants’ $500,000 offer to settle, an offer which was withdrawn. However, the defendants are probably wishing that they had agreed to settle for $500,000 instead of the $897,000 award that they are now responsible for paying.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling Illinois bus accident lawsuits for individuals and families for more than 35 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and surrounding areas, including Naperville, Schaumburg, Highwood, Morton Grove, Niles, Antioch.

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