CHICAGO – A combined $35 million judgment stemming from a fatal five-car crash has been pared back, after a judge took another look at the huge jury verdict.
While initially awarded the massive combined judgment, plaintiffs Theresa Swenson and Joseph LaSanche have received a much-reduced amount in a ruling by Cook County Circuit Court Judge Thomas J. Lipscomb, who presided over the trial that lasted two weeks. The two parties filed lawsuits against Adam Troy, a driver who slammed into Swenson’s husband’s vehicle, killing him and then pushing his car into the back of LaSanche’s vehicle, leaving him with radiating back pain.
Swenson received $12.7 million in the ruling, down from the $22.7 million awarded to her husband’s estate by the jury. LaSanche received $7.3 million, a reduction from the $12.4 million he was awarded by the jury. Swenson filed the suit on behalf of her husband’s estate, which was later merged with LeSanche’s lawsuit as it involved the same accident with Troy.
“The reduction of the jury verdict by Judge Lipscomb was not surprising,” said John V. Schrock, attorney at John Schrock Law and counsel for Troy. “Judges are required to reduce verdicts that are clearly excessive as provided by Illinois law.”
Part of the trial involved evidence by Swenson that she suffered a miscarriage due to suffering brought on by losing her husband in the crash. As part of the suit, she sought punitive damages because of her miscarriage, but they were not awarded by the jury.
According to Schrock, the miscarriage may be one of the reasons the jury award was reduced in this case.
“Judge Lipscomb reduced the jury verdict because the evidence of Theresa Swenson’s miscarriage alleged to be from the stress caused by the death of Aaron Swenson was improperly admitted and it had a prejudicial effect on the jury, and resulted in excessive damages verdicts for both Swenson and LeSanche,” said Schrock.
LeSanche did receive punitive damages from the jury in the amount of $100,000 as part of his initial $12.4 million award, as it is alleged that Troy was impaired at the time of the accident with multiple drugs in his system. In her suit, Swenson claimed Troy's alleged impairment constituted negligent driving and caused her husband’s death.
Schrock maintains that the initial verdict was excessive and Troy was not allegedly impaired during the accident.
“The verdict was improper for several reasons,” said Schrock. “First, there was an award of $100,000 in punitive damages in favor of LeSanche against Adam Troy. There was no evidence that Adam Troy was impaired at the time of the accident; he blew a 0.0 and the arresting officer who was with him for six -seven hours that day testified that he answered all his questions, and was not impaired. Second, as Judge Lipscomb has ruled, the verdicts for both Swenson and LeSanche were improperly inflated due to juror sympathy due to the Tracy Swenson miscarriage evidence, which should have never been admitted.”
While it remains to be seen if Swenson and LeSanche will appeal the reduced verdicts, Schrock thinks a new trial may be best for all parties involved.
“There are multiple scenarios as to how this will play out and it remains to be seen if the case is headed for a new trial or an appeal,” said Schrock. “If the Swenson and LeSanche attorneys want to do a complete retrial, I believe that would be fair as the defense in this matter, myself included, has been willing to offer both plaintiffs fair compensation.”
Swenson was represented in the action by the Clifford Law Offices, of Chicago.