Wednesday, June 08, 2011

TOP STORY > >Huge award in wreck

By joan mccoy

Leader staff writer

A jury in Lonoke County Circuit Court has awarded a severely brain-injured Cabot woman $17 million for injuries she sustained in 2008 when she hit a dump truck on U.S. Hwy. 67/167.

Almost three years ago, on July 18, 2008, 20-year-old Ariel Anderson had been accepted into culinary school and was working as a waitress at The Olive Garden in North Little Rock.

She was driving south outside Jacksonville between Redmond Road and the I-440 overpass on her way to work when she ran into a dump truck that was entering the outside lane from the median.

The impact tore away more than a quarter of her skull and brain and though she wasn’t expected to live, she did.

Then she wasn’t expected to come out of a coma, but she did. And despite the odds against it, she learned to walk and talk, but the damage to her brain was so severe that all her plans for the future have been set aside and she will always require around-the-clock care. She has undergone several reconstructive surgeries but more are required.

On the day of the accident, there were no signs to alert motorists that dump trucks would be entering traffic from the median. And the asphalt ramp the trucks were using to gain speed was only 200 feet long, so the truck was traveling at about 30 miles an hour when it entered traffic traveling at 65 miles an hour. A road grader was parked beside the end of the ramp which made it almost impossible for the dump-truck driver to see the traffic behind him.

The warning signs went up the next day and the dump-truck company settled out of court for $1.4 million.

Phillip Duncan, from the Duncan Law Firm in Little Rock, represented Anderson and her parents, Kim and Randy Patrick, who have been taking care of her since she was injured.

The suit was filed against the dump truck company as well as Weaver Bailey Construction Co., with 10 of 12 jurors voting to award Anderson the $17 million.

Kim Patrick left her job immediately when her daughter was injured. Chief Master Sgt. Randy Patrick retired recently from the Air Force. He was stationed at Little Rock Air Force Base, where he was the commander of the non-commissioned officers.

Duncan said awards that large usually are appealed, but he believes Weaver Bailey Construction will agree to settle for a lesser amount instead.

“We’re in the process of resolving it. The construction company wants to move on,” Duncan said.

Weaver Bailey Construction was represented by Kevin Taylor, a Denver lawyer who specializes in construction zone cases, as well as the Little Rock firm Barber, McCaskill, Jones and Hale.

Anderson was also represented by Jerry Kelly of Lonoke. The case was heard over a two-week period in Judge Sandy Huckabee’s court.