Hennepin County Jury Returns Excess Verdict Against American Family Insured

EAGAN, MN, January 26, 2013 After being told to “get over it” by an American Family adjuster, a 22-year old woman, after nearly drowning in a car crash, was awarded almost $284,000 by a Hennepin County jury. On Wednesday, January 16, 2013, after a 2 day trial, a Hennepin County (Minnesota) jury returned an excess verdict in favor of a 22-year old passenger who was injured in a collision in late March 2010.
The 22-year old was a passenger in a vehicle driven by Champale Carter on March 28, 2010. The young women were traveling to Willmar to visit friends. On the way there, after dark, the driver went through a t-intersection and into a holding pond. The car hit the water, the front windshield broke and water began rushing in. The young women escaped the vehicle. When they jumped from the car into the water, they realized that the cold water was over her heads. The two young women swam to shore.
The passenger suffered injuries to her neck and back in the collision. More devastating, however, was the emotional injuries she sustained. Following the collision, the 22-year old passenger experienced nightmares 2 to 3 nights per week. She received medical care from a chiropractor, neurologist and a psychologist.
The passenger’s attorney, Thomas Bennerotte of the Eagan based law firm of Bennerotte & Associates, PA, pursued the driver’s insurance carrier, American Family, in an effort to attempt resolution of the case. American Family offered a small sum of money for what they deemed soft tissue injuries. With respect to the emotional aspects of the passenger’s case, the American Family adjuster suggested Mr. Bennerotte tell his client to “get over it.” After the verdict, Mr. Bennerotte said his client and him both remembered that May 2011 conversation with the American Family adjuster like it was yesterday. Bennerotte said, “I did not react to the insensitive comment like I would have liked to. I simply told the adjuster that the comment was foolish but that I would not get mad. I did ‘promise’ him, however, that my client and I would get even.” A lawsuit was commenced in response to the low-ball offer.

“Get even” is exactly what Bennerotte and his client did. The driver did not admit fault or offer an apology. “We asked the jury to do what the negligent driver did not – make things right.” The Hennepin County jury returned a verdict in favor of the passenger for almost $284,000, which included over $220,000 for past and future pain, suffering, embarrassment and emotional distress. The verdict is well over the American Family insured’s $100,000 policy limit. When asked about the verdict, Bennerotte smiled and said, “As it turns out, American Family will be the ones getting over it.”
While the result was not Bennerotte’s largest, he commented that, “it was one of the most satisfying.”


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