Written by Keith V. Trantolo
MARTIN FAGAN, ET AL. V. BLACK & BOUCHER, LLC, ET AL.
Motorcyclist Martin Fagan, III was riding on Route 15 in Meriden, Connecticut, when he traveled through an area of defectively milled roadway causing him to lose control of his motorcycle and crash. He and his wife settled a lawsuit with the defendant milling company, Black & Boucher LLC, for $3.5 million dollars.
In June, 2011, Black & Boucher, LLC commenced its work pursuant to a contract with the Department of Transportation to mill a portion of Route 15 in Meriden. Milling is the removal and recycling of an existing layer of asphalt in order to make way for a new pavement surface. Upon completion of the milling work, a paving company was expected to resurface the road with a new layer of asphalt.
On the evening of June 29, 2011 the plaintiff, Martin Fagan, rode his Honda Valkyrie motorcycle on Route 15. The recently milled road surface was rough and contained grooves, edges, and elevated manhole covers. While traveling northbound, the plaintiff encountered an elevated manhole cover in his travel lane, posing an obstruction. As he navigated by the manhole cover, the plaintiff encountered a two inch raised edge allegedly created through the milling process. Contact with the raised edge caused the plaintiff to lose control of his motorcycle and crash. The plaintiff was taken by ambulance to Hartford Hospital where he was treated for numerous injuries, including multiple fractures and a traumatic brain injury.
The plaintiff brought a claim of negligence against several parties, including Black & Boucher, LLC. The plaintiff also brought a claim against the State of Connecticut under the highway defect statute. The plaintiff’s wife asserted a loss of consortium claim.
The issue of liability was heavily disputed. According to Attorney Keith Trantolo, managing partner at Trantolo & Trantolo, LLC, the case involved a battle of the experts. The lawyers who litigated the case, Christopher Cramer and Ron Etemi, argued that Black and Boucher, LLC negligently milled the roadway by creating the raised edge to the right of the manhole cover and failed to correct the condition.
To prove the claim, the plaintiffs retained a roadway engineer who opined that Black & Boucher, LLC improperly milled the roadway and failed to adhere to technical specifications required by the State Department of Transportation (“State DOT”) contract. Specifically, the engineer observed several roadway defects created by Black & Boucher, LLC, including an approximately two (2) inch raised edge to the right of a manhole cover. To further bolster the claim, the plaintiffs retained an accident reconstructionist who opined that the raised edge caused the plaintiff’s loss of control. The defendant countered with an engineer and reconstructionist of its own. The engineer for the defendant provided an opinion that the roadway was not milled negligently and further that the condition the plaintiff alleged was not created by the defendant, but was as a result of traffic flow over the roadway after it had been milled. The defendant’s expert also cited to the fact that the State DOT had approved the work of Black & Boucher, LLC, finding the roadway had been milled properly and in compliance with the State DOT contract. Further, the defendant’s accident reconstructionist offered testimony that the raised edge identified by the plaintiff could not, and did not, cause the plaintiff’s loss of control.
The damages in the case were not seriously disputed. As a result of the crash, the plaintiff suffered a severe traumatic brain injury with significant impairment of his cognitive, speech, and motor functions. The plaintiff’s neurologist provided an opinion that the plaintiff suffered permanent impairment for a prolonged alteration of his state of consciousness and dependency for activities of daily living, permanent impairment of his speech and comprehension, and permanent impairment of his gait disorder. The plaintiff has had to undergo several surgeries and continues to receive care for his cognitive, physical and psychological effects. The plaintiff now requires around the clock care and will have to remain in assisted living for the rest of his life.