An Olney man injured in a multi-vehicle crash on Interstate 70 has been awarded $1.8 million in damages following a five-week jury trial in Prince George’s County Circuit Court.
Jeremy R. Iocozzia, was 19 years old in November 2011 when he was driving one of six vehicles involved in a crash as police stopped traffic on I-70 in Frederick County to search a charter bus for suspects in a West Virginia shooting.
The jury award includes almost $1 million for past and future medical expenses and lost wages. The trial began March 28 and concluded April 28, prompting Judge C. Philip Nichols Jr. to declare it the longest trial in the county in 2016, according to Jonathan Scott Smith, Iocozzia’s lawyer.
Iocozzia was stopped in the eastbound lanes when a van driven by Brett Lee Lease rear-ended another car then struck Iocozzia’s car, said Smith, a Columbia solo practitioner.
“He was just sitting there and all of a sudden, smash,” Smith said.
The car behind Iocozzia was sent spinning into the median, killing two passengers. Iocozzia sustained a traumatic brain injury as well as neck, face and back injuries, according to Smith. Iocozzia will require ongoing treatment for his back injury and his earning capacity will be substantially affected.
“He certainly was gratified and relieved at the verdict,” Smith said of his client.
Though Iocozzia’s trial was lengthy, Smith said he did not think the case was complex. Smith said his case took six or seven days to present, with several days spent on just a handful of witnesses who withstood lengthy cross-examination from the defense.
Jurors deliberated for around four hours before returning with the verdict.
“I don’t think that the jury saw it as overly complicated,” Smith said. “From my point of view, the stakes may have been high but I don’t think it was overly complicated either. It was just a question of who they believed.”
A police investigator concluded there was no evidence Lease tried to stop prior to the crash, Smith said, but the defense alleged the car Lease initially struck had cut him off and caused the collision.
Lease was driving a van owned by his employer, Capitol Heights-based Natelco Corp. The defendants were represented by Ugo Colella and John Zefutie of Duane Morris LLP in Washington. Colella did not return a call seeking comment Wednesday.
“I thought it was a fairly straightforward case,” Smith said.
The defense has filed post-trial motions in the case, according to Smith, including a request that the $900,000 noneconomic damages award be reduced to the statutory cap of $755,000.
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Jeremy R. Iocozzia v. Brett Lee Lease, et al.
Court: Prince George’s County Circuit
Case No.: CAL14-14496
Judge: C. Philip Nichols Jr.
Outcome: Verdict for the plaintiff of $1,883,383.47, including $983,383.47 for medical expenses and lost wages and $900,000 for noneconomic damages (subject to Maryland’s cap on noneconomic damages).
Event: Nov. 26, 2011
Suit filed: Sept. 17, 2014
Verdict: April 29, 2016
Plaintiff’s Attorney: Jonathan Scott Smith, Columbia solo practitioner
Defendants’ attorneys: Ugo Colella and John Zefutie of Duane Morris LLP in Washington D.C.