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Pr. George’s jury awards $940K in collision case

A Prince George’s County jury has awarded nearly $940,000 to a Hyattsville woman whose career was derailed when a distracted driver entered an intersection against the light and into the path of her car.

The award to Melissa Satterfield — a married mother of four who sustained a severe injury to her right ankle — included $36,504.09 for medical expenses and $900,000 for her pain and suffering. The pain and suffering award will be reduced to $740,000 due to Maryland’s statutory cap on non-economic damages, for a total award of $776.504.09.

That figure is well in excess of the $70,000 the driver’s insurance company initially offered Satterfield, which doubled to $140,000 as the Nov. 4 trial date approached.

Satterfield’s attorney said that neither he nor his client was interested in settling at that figure.

“We never made a counteroffer because we knew Allstate would never fairly compensate the woman, but a jury would,” said the attorney, Ronald V. Miller Jr. “They accepted responsibility for the liability but they did not take real responsibility for the injury.”

The 2011 collision prompted emergency surgery and the placement of screws and rods in her ankle. Satterfield, 33, will have a permanent limp before likely suffering from premature arthritis and further surgery, Miller said in explaining the pain and suffering award.

The injury to her ankle also cost her a career as a hairstylist.

“She can’t stand on her feet for hours on end,” Miller said.

Thomas A. McManus, who represented the driver and Allstate, said the plaintiff’s strategy succeeded, pending post-trial defense motions yet to be filed.

“They were confident in their case,” said McManus, of Sasscer, Clagett & Bucher in Upper Marlboro. “They had no interest in settling it.”

McManus declined to say what relief he will seek in the post-trial motions.

Sara Coe, the driver and Allstate policy holder, conceded liability before the trial in Prince George’s County Circuit Court last Monday.

As a result, the jury’s task was to determine damages, which it did after deliberating for less than 30 minutes after the one-day trial.

Miller said the crash that prompted the litigation occurred on April 20, 2011, at the intersection of Annapolis Road and 85th Avenue in Glen Burnie.

According to Miller, Coe said she was searching her purse for a parking pass as she waited at a red light and, upon hearing a horn beep, drove her Acura into the intersection.

A “classic distracted driving case,” said Miller, of Miller & Zois LLC in Glen Burnie.

Satterfield never had a chance to stop her SUV. Both cars were totaled, Miller said.

Coe suffered a broken leg and fractured sternum, he added.

An ambulance took Satterfield to Prince George’s Hospital Center in Cheverly for surgery, Miller said.

Satterfield was unable to stand without assistance for six months. Her mother came to care for her and the family for four of those months, the attorney added.

Satterfield “was never able to go back to work as a hairstylist and instead took care of the kids full time and went back to college with plans to be a teacher, but still wanting to own a hair salon one day so she could get back into the business she loved,” Miller wrote in an email.

Satterfield is scheduled to get her bachelor’s degree in May, he added.

MELISSA SATTERFIELD V. SARA COE

Court:

Prince George’s County Circuit Court

Case No.:

CAL12-31388

Judge:

Toni Clarke

Outcome:

Plaintiff’s Verdict:

$36,504.09 medical expenses

$900,000 non-economic damages, capped at $740,000

Dates:

Event: April 20, 2011

Suit filed: Oct. 5, 2012

Trial: Nov. 4, 2013

Jury Verdict: Nov. 4, 2013

Plaintiff’s Attorneys:

Ronald V. Miller Jr. and Laura G. Zois of Miller & Zois LLC in Glen Burnie.

Defendant’s Attorney:

Thomas A. McManus of Sasscer, Clagett & Bucher in Upper Marlboro.

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