Juror Faints, Prompting $10 Million Settlement

A juror fainted while listening to grisly medical details in a Philadelphia courtroom, forcing a trial delay that produced a quick $10 million settlement.
Lawyer Robert Mongeluzzi was 20 minutes into his opening statement Monday when Juror No. 1 pitched backward and passed out, The Legal Intelligencer eported in Thursday's edition.
Mongeluzzi was describing how a traffic accident left client Gary Pettet with rotting flesh and bone after 12 surgeries. Doctors ultimately had to amputate his leg.
Medics checked on the juror, who was fine and mostly suffering from embarrassment, defense lawyer Jack Snyder said. He and Mongeluzzi used the stoppage to resume settlement talks, but Snyder said the fainting woman had no effect on his client's position.
The defendant, the Port Authority Transit Corp. commuter rail line, had admitted before trial that its truck driver was liable for the collision, Snyder said. A bridge security video shows PATCO driver Stephen Cassidy running a red light before the crash.
Pettet, a 55-year-old cement mason from Berlin, N.J., had been on his way to work on July 3, 2007, and had just crossed a bridge into Philadelphia when he was struck by the PATCO truck and shoved into a median strip. His right ankle was shattered and he broke several bones in his leg.
In his opening, Mongeluzzi described a debriding procedure that doctors performed to try to rid the leg of a serious infection. The doctors "cut the infected, rotting flesh out of his ankle. And that includes his skin, that includes the subcutaneous muscle, and that includes dead, rotting, infected bone,'' Mongeluzzi explained.
Co-counsel Andrew Duffy noticed the juror, a teacher from the city's Chestnut Hill neighborhood, wincing before she passed out.
Snyder, though, isn't convinced she fainted because of the subject matter. The uncomfortably hot courtroom temperature could be to blame, he said.
Mongeluzzi said the settlement figure is twice what PATCO offered his client before trial.
But Snyder says the two sides had reduced the gap between them to about $4 million -- with PATCO offering $8.5 million and Mongeluzzi seeking $12.5 million -- when they agreed to meet near the middle.

"I've been around a long time, so I think I've pretty much seen everything,'' Snyder told The Associated Press on Thursday. "This just adds to it.''

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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