A Cook County jury awarded more than $2.36 million to a truck driver injured in a collision on the Tri-State Tollway in 2008.
Ryan Keeping was driving his semitrailer south on I-294 near the 95th Street exit in Bridgeview when a pickup truck ahead of him changed lanes, moving from the far-right lane into his lane. Quickly moving to his left to avoid the pickup, Keeping corrected to the right but lost control of the truck. The semitrailer’s cab slammed into a concrete wall along the road, leaving Keeping trapped inside the truck for more than 90 minutes until firefighters could extract him.
Daniel T. Madigan, an associate at Motherway & Napleton LLP, said the crash left Keeping with second-degree burns to his feet, soft-tissue injuries to his neck and back and damage to one of his shoulder joints. He also suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder following the incident.
Keeping filed a complaint in December 2009 in Cook County Circuit Court against the pickup truck’s driver — Shawn Graff — and Graff’s employer, Deerfield Construction Co.
During the trial before Circuit Judge Donald J. Suriano the jury was shown video of the overturned truck, as filmed by a TV news helicopter covering the snarled highway traffic. Madigan said Graff and Deerfield Construction contended they weren’t the cause of the accident — rather, they maintained a white van swerved into Keeping’s lane.
Before hiring Motherway & Napleton and filing the lawsuit against Graff and Deerfield Construction, Keeping settled with the driver of the white van for $50,000.
Madigan said that witnesses in the trial were able to describe the scene from several vantage points. Even with some inconsistency between witness accounts, the jury was convinced Graff and Deerfield caused Keeping to swerve. “It got down to eyewitness testimony as to what occurred,” he said.
The $2,368,000 award comprises $1 million for pain and suffering, $750,000 for loss of a normal life, $450,000 for lost earnings, $153,000 for medical expenses and $15,000 for disfigurement. Madigan said the physical injuries did not require surgery and have mostly healed, but Keeping continues to suffer from PTSD. The depression and anxiety that come with the condition prevent him from returning to his old job, he said.
Keeping — 41 at the time of the crash — was a former British soldier who had worked as a truck driver in many countries, he said. “He had worked around the world and enjoyed an active, interesting life,” Madigan said. Keeping tried to return to the job a few months after the accident but never made it past the first assignment, when he was startled by a herd of deer on the highway, Madigan said. “His PTSD flared up, and he has never again operated a semitractor trailer,” he said.
Keeping was also represented by John W. Burnett, an associate at Motherway & Napleton.
The case is Ryan Keeping v. Shawn Graff, et al., 09 L 15630.