June 22 2011

Cooley & Handy Obtains Substantial Settlement in Lock Haven University Assault Case

Blog Written by  Alisa

Cooley & Handy recently obtained a substantial cash settlement in a personal injury case for a 21 year-old Lock Haven University student who was severely injured after he was assaulted while at college. The plaintiff was injured when he attempted to intervene to break up a fight started by six young men who did not attend the university. As he approached the fight, the plaintiff was pushed by one of the young men, tripped, fell back and struck his head on a concrete sidewalk.

As a result of falling and striking the sidewalk, the plaintiff suffered a serious traumatic head and brain injury, including a skull fracture running from the back center of his head through his cheek and nose. Following the accident, the plaintiff was put into a medically induced coma for several weeks and surgeons had to remove a section of the plaintiff’s skull to relieve pressure on his brain. Miraculously, the plaintiff survived his injures, but had to undergo several follow-up surgeries and intense rehabilitation, including learning to walk, talk and eat again.

Cooley & Handy overcame several challenging legal obstacles to reach a settlement in the case.

First, the defendants in the case were all young men without substantial assets or the ability to otherwise satisfy a judgment. By pursing the case under a strict negligence theory however, and intentionally rejecting allegations of assault and battery, Cooley & Handy was able to obtain insurance coverage from several of the defendants’ parents’ homeowner insurance policies, which cover negligent acts but do not cover “intentional” acts, such as assaults. This theory also fit well with the facts of the case since most, if not all, of the defendants likely did not actually intend to injury the plaintiff, particularly to the extent of his injuries.

Second, because no witness could definitively identify the individual defendant that actually pushed the plaintiff, and all of the defendants denied doing so, Cooley & Handy had to proceed against all of the defendants under a theory of concerted tortious conduct or “enterprise liability,” which had the added benefit of making more than one of the defendant’s insurance policies available to satisfy a judgment. Pennsylvania law allows liability to be imposed on individuals who engage in concerted tortious conduct, such as the behavior that occurred in the case (i.e. starting and participating in a fight). See, e.g., Sovereign Bank v. Valentino, 914 A.2d 415 (Pa. Super. 2007),

The settlement was reached after extensive discovery and litigation in the case. The specific terms of the settlement are confidential. The lawsuit was filed in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania.

Cooley & Handy is a Bucks County personal injury law firm that represents plaintiffs in personal injury lawsuits in both state and federal court in Bucks County, Montgomery County, Philadelphia County, and throughout Pennsylvania and elsewhere.

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