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High-low agreement results in $100,000 for pedestrian

On Aug. 14, 2004, at 9:00 p.m., plaintiff attempted to cross a low-traffic, two-lane side street (with a center turn lane) between intersections from her place of employment to her car, which was parked across the street. The nearest intersection was a very busy intersection with a main road about 50 – 75 yards away, but the intersection had no marked crosswalks or pedestrian crossing signals. The intersection also had a two-way service road, which resulted in approximately seven to eight ways for cars to approach from various directions. Plaintiff alleged that the intersection was more dangerous for pedestrians to cross than the side street where she attempted to cross.

Plaintiff also introduced evidence from former co-workers that the area where plaintiff was hit was well-lit at night due to large nearby commercial lights from the dealership where plaintiff worked.

Plaintiff alleged that defendant, a former co-worker, turned left from the dealership to go home and stopped about two to three car lengths away from plaintiff, so that plaintiff assumed that he was allowing her to cross. However, after plaintiff took one to two steps into defendant’s travel lane, she heard an acceleration and saw bright lights approaching. She attempted to turn to return to the center lane but was hit.

It was undisputed that defendant did not see plaintiff at any time before striking her. A former co-worker of plaintiff testified that defendant told him after the accident that he was trying to “catch the light.”

Defendant alleged that he did not stop after starting his left turn from the dealership. Defendant contended that he was in the process of completing his left turn by crossing over the center turn lane when he heard a noise (the impact) and believed that plaintiff merely walked into the driver’s side mirror of his car, which has no damage.

Plaintiff and defendant agreed to try the case on liability only and entered into a high/low agreement of $100,000/$25,000 because defendant’s liability limits were $100,000 and no additional coverage was available.

The jury returned a special verdict form, which found that defendant was negligent, that defendant’s negligence proximately caused the accident, and that plaintiff was negligent but plaintiff’s negligence was not a proximate cause of the accident.