Cole v. Henry
Jury awards $13.4 million to woman injured when her father fell asleep
at the wheel and crashed truck during cross-country trip. The jury award
was the largest personal injury verdict in Sonoma County history.
On June 1, 2011, Angie Cole, age 28, and her father, Henry, a State Farm
insured, were driving across country from North Carolina to California
in a rental truck, hauling a trailer with a car on it. Henry was transporting
furniture and personal goods to his home in California. He had invited
his daughter to come along with him to share his company and driving responsibilities.
In the early morning hours of June 3, near Flagstaff, Arizona, as Angie
was sleeping in the front passenger seat, Henry fell asleep at the wheel.
The truck veered left at 70 mph, crossed two oncoming traffic lanes, and
plowed into the Mojave Desert. Lead counsel Cynthia McGuinn says, “This
case highlights the dangers associated with fatigued driving and the responsibilities
all drivers have to ensure they are fit to drive.”
Henry was able to extricate himself and stumble from the wreckage. Angie,
who knew she had suffered a severe back injury, remained belted in the
cab until an ambulance arrived some forty minutes later. Angie was taken
by ambulance to a local hospital which was ill-equipped to handle an injury
of this magnitude, so Angie was transported by helicopter to Sunrise Medical
Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Angie sustained a comminuted vertebral burst fracture of her spine requiring
surgical repair and fusion. She subsequently developed severe infections,
requiring an additional surgery. Ultimately a third surgery was performed
to remove the plates and screws in her spine as it was believed that might
be the source of the ongoing infection.
The trauma to Angie’s spine, caused by the fractures, the infections,
and repeated surgical procedures at the site, resulted in the development
of a mixed pain syndrome requiring a fourth surgery: the surgical implantation
a spinal cord stimulator, a device which helps to diminish, but not fully
control, ongoing pain. When it was discovered that Angie’s initial
spinal fusion had never been achieved and her spine was collapsing, a
fifth, complex spinal fusion operation was performed at UCSF.
Today, Angie is improved, but remains presently disabled from work. She
hopes to return to part time employment soon, but will require lifetime
After a trial spanning two months, the hardworking Sonoma County jury disagreed,
and awarded Angie $6.4 million in economic damages and $7 million for
her noneconomic damages – a $13.4 million verdict.