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Super Lawyers
Michael M. Guerra
2011 A Thompson Reuters service printed in Texas Monthly
Couple Gets $30M Award
A Duval County has jury awarded a South Texas couple more than $30 million in damages after a vehicle accident near a construction site left a Freer man paraplegic.

Bick's Construction, a Fort Worth-based general contractor, was repaving a stretch of road on State Highway 44 in Duval County on June 1 when Joseph Charles Drennan collided into James "Buddy" Roberts.

Michael M. Guerra, Roberts' attorney, argued that Bick's was negligent, failing to use state-mandated signage to ensure the roadway was safe for motorists in light of construction hazards.

The plaintiffs produced about 10 witnesses, including a state trooper and two passing motorists who testified that no construction caution signs were present at the time of the accident.

Court documents state that Drennan was traveling westbound, approaching construction when the vehicle in front of him slowed to a stop because of traffic buildup.

Drennan failed to control his speed, clipping the vehicle in front of him before entering the eastbound lane, where he impacted Roberts' vehicle head-on.

Roberts' vehicle was launched off the road and rolled multiple times before resting on its side.

Following three days of trial and two hours of deliberation last week, a jury found both Bick's and Drennan negligent and awarded Roberts and his wife, Yolanda Ann Roberts, $23.3 million in actual damages and $10 million in punitive damages.

Roberts, a beloved retired football coach, incurred $1 million in past medical bills.

He anticipates an additional $2.5 million in future medical bills, Guerra said.

"The signs are mandatory to provide warning to the motoring public," Guerra said of the preventable accident. "'Be Prepared To Stop' is an important message that companies should not just ignore.

"Everyone agrees that road warning signs save lives."

Although a jury awarded the Roberts family a significant sum, a previously signed agreement between both counsels capped the amount of liability damages to be paid out by the defense at $6 million, said defense attorney Frank Sabo.

"The case was settled pre-trial in accordance with a bracketed settlement agreement," Sabo said.

As part of the agreement, defense will also not appeal.

"We are disappointed with the verdict, but we respect the jury's decision," Sabo said.

(Stephanie Ibarra may be reached at 728-2547 or sibarra@lmtonline.com)

 
 
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