Texting While Driving Death Lawsuit Settles
The wife of a 56-year-old Kansas City pedestrian killed by a college student who was texting while driving agreed to a $1.6 million settlement of her wrongful death case, attorneys said.
A 2009 Audi A4 struck Wheadon “Chip” Bloch on Aug. 29, 2011, as he was crossing Main Street at its intersection with 31st Street, according to a Jackson County lawsuit filed about three months later. As a condition of the settlement, the two sides agreed to not publicly name the defendant driver.
Bloch, who was visually impaired, was on his way to Metropolitan Community College, where he worked adapting textbooks for visually impaired students, plaintiff’s attorney Steve Six said.
According to the lawsuit, the Audi driver “accelerated her car through the intersection and into the crosswalk” while attempting a left turn. Bloch suffered multiple broken bones and internal injuries as well as a severe brain injury. He died at Truman Medical Center after two days on life support.
Mounted cameras on a pair of passing Kansas City Area Transit Authority buses captured video of the driver, which aided the plaintiff’s case, Six said.
Lawyers for Bloch’s wife, Sherri Bowman Bloch, also obtained the driver’s cellphone records to show she was sending and receiving text messages on her cellphone, Six said.
He cited research by David Strayer, a University of Utah professor who studies drivers’ cellphone use, that shows drivers distracted by text messages spend an average of four seconds looking away from the road.
“This is like driving with your eyes closed for a recklessly long period of time,” the attorney said.
The case was set for trial in early November, but attorneys reached a settlement in September.
Bloch’s wife receives $500,000 from a Nationwide policy on the driver, who was covered by her parents’ insurance; $100,000 from a State Farm policy on the car; and another $1 million from Nationwide umbrella coverage, attorneys explained. Each of those amounts reflects policy limits.
Ben Fadler, the defendant’s attorney, said the case involved comparative fault because Bloch “decided to run across the crosswalk against the traffic signal” and “simply decided to beat traffic.” The driver didn’t face criminal charges.
“The defendant simply did not see the decedent, and a tragic accident occurred,” Fadler added. “I am glad my client is able to move on with her life.”
■ $1.6 million settlement
Wrongful death/motor vehicle collision
■ Venue: Jackson County Circuit Court
■ Case Number/Date: 1116-CV33223/Sept. 16, 2012
■ Judge: Kevin D. Harrell
■ Plaintiff’s Experts: David Strayer, Salt Lake City (cognition, texting while driving); Bruno Schmidt, Springfield (accident reconstruction); Larry Cox, Springfield (economics); Brad Mathison, Kansas City (forensic visualization/animation)
■ Insurers: State Farm Auto Insurance and Nationwide
■ Caption: Sherri Bowman Bloch v. confidential
■ Plaintiff’s Attorneys: Steve Six, Andrew W. Funk and Norman E. Siegel, Stueve Siegel Hanson, Kansas City
■ Defendant’s Attorney: Ben H. Fadler, Manz Swanson & Mulhern, Kansas City
By Alan Scher Zagier
Special to Missouri Lawyers Weekly