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Sanders v. Diveraus

Superior Court of Connecticut, Judicial District of New Haven, New Haven

September 24, 2015

Shalonda Sanders
v.
Godley Diveraus et al

MEMORANDUM OF DECISION RE MOTION TO SET ASIDE VERDICT (#138)

Robin L. Wilson, J.

I

INTRODUCTION

Presently before the court is the plaintiff's, Shalonda Sanders' motion to set aside the verdict. The motion follows a jury trial in which Sanders sought to prove that she sustained injuries as a result of a collision that occurred between a vehicle, operated by the defendant, Godley Diveraus, and in which she was a passenger, and an uninsured vehicle operated by Nicholas Frank. The vehicle operated by the defendant, Godley Diveraus was owned by the defendant, Transportation General, Inc. (Transportation General). The plaintiff commenced suit against the defendants on November 28, 2012. On April 12, 2015, the plaintiff withdrew her complaint against Godley Diveraus and pursued her claim solely against Transportation General, Inc. Transportation General admitted liability, however, causation, and whether the plaintiff sustained an actual injury were in dispute. On April 22, 2015, a jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant, Transportation General, Inc. For the reasons set forth subsequently in this opinion, the plaintiff's motion is denied.

II

FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

The following facts are alleged in the plaintiff's complaint. On or about May 1, 2012, the plaintiff was a passenger in a cab driven by Godley Diveraus, and owned by the defendant, Transportation General traveling south on Quinnipiac Avenue in New Haven, Connecticut. At the same time and place, Nicholas Frank was driving an uninsured vehicle south on Quinnipiac Avenue when his vehicle collided with the cab. The collision and resulting injuries and losses suffered by the plaintiff were due to the negligence of Nicholas Frank in that he followed too closely and/or violated Connecticut General Statutes § 14-240; he failed to keep his vehicle under proper and reasonable control; he failed to keep a proper and reasonable lookout for other vehicles; he failed to apply his brakes in time to avoid the collision; he failed to turn his vehicle so as to avoid the collision; he failed to sound his horn or flash his lights to warn of the impending collision; and he otherwise failed to exercise due care in operating his vehicle. As a result of the collision, the plaintiff sustained injuries to her head, neck, upper back, shoulder and suffered from emotional distress. The plaintiff further alleges that she incurred medical expenses, she experienced pain and suffering and that her ability to pursue and enjoy life's leisure activities have been reduced.

The plaintiff alleges that on the date of the accident, the defendant, Transportation General self-insured the cab driven by Godley Diveraus, and in which she was a passenger, and that such insurance provided uninsured motorist coverage, as required by the relevant provisions of the Connecticut General Statutes. Under the uninsured motorist coverage, the defendant, Transportation General agreed to pay, inter alia, such sums which a passenger in the cab is legally entitled to recover as damages from the owner or operator of an uninsured motor vehicle as a result of bodily injury sustained in a covered accident. The plaintiff is a covered insured under the uninsured motorist coverage and such coverage was in effect on or about May 1, 2012, and, Nicholas Frank was an operator of an uninsured vehicle. Count two is negligence against Godley Diveraus and alleges a number of ways Diveraus was negligent, and count three is against Transportation General based on vicarious liability and alleges that the defendant Godley Diveraus drove the cab with the permission and/or authorization of and/or as the agent of Transportation General. However as previously noted, the plaintiff withdrew count three against Diveraus. The plaintiff's remaining claim was against Transportation General pursuant to the uninsured coverage.

The defendant, Transportation General admitted liability, however denied that the plaintiff sustained an actual injury and that any injuries claimed were the proximate cause of the accident.

In her motion to set aside the verdict, the plaintiff argues that, despite the court's instruction that liability was not an issue in the case, the jury returned a defendant's verdict. More specifically, the plaintiff argues that, because the jury was instructed that this case was an uninsured motorist case and that the defendant is responsible for the actions of the driver, Nicholas Frank, on the date of the accident, and that the defendant, Transportation General admitted that the accident was the fault of the uninsured driver, the jury could not return a defendant's verdict unless the jury made a plain and palpable mistake.

The defendant, Transportation General argues that the court should deny the plaintiff's motion because the plaintiff was required to prove two elements of negligence other than liability and the plaintiff's argument was explicitly rejected by the Supreme Court in Right v. Breen, 277 Conn. 364, 890 A.2d 1287 (2006); plaintiff's counsel waived this objection when she reviewed and approved both verdict forms; and the court's charge to the jury explicitly stated a situation whereby the jury must return a verdict in favor of the defendant and use the defendant verdict form.

III

DISCUSSION

LEGAL STANDARDS OF REVIEW


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