The trial of Hanenberg v. Westfield (St. Louis County District Court, 2014) concerned the duties of drivers on a foggy Duluth highway. The alleged tortfeasor was a county employee operating a 40,000-pound excavating machine that accelerated slowly. The county vehicle had pulled out onto the highway in front of the plaintiff. Visibility was restricted due to the terrain and foggy conditions. The plaintiff argued the county driver was at fault for unsafely entering the highway and for failing to activate the strobe lights on the vehicle.
Dan Singel and Rachel Osdoba defended Westfield in this UIM action. Westfield’s argument was that the county driver was operating his vehicle safely, and that there was no requirement that the strobe lights be activated. One of the central issues was the admission of statements the plaintiff had made to surgeons in the emergency room regarding her speed prior to the collision. Westfield won these hearsay issues and was able to present evidence to the jury that the plaintiff had been speeding in the fog.
The plaintiff requested $1,027,000 plus pain and suffering given the plaintiff sustained five fractures, traumatic arthritis, disfigurement, extensive wage loss, and would require two future surgeries. Westfield suggested the jury find no liability and $140,000 in damages. The jury returned a defense verdict—zero liability on the tortfeasor and zero damages beyond stipulated past medicals.