In a Connecticut Appellate Court decision, the Court affirmed a $256,058 damaged award to young woman who had been injured in an automobile accident.
The personal injury suit was filed in 2009 by Laura Cima against defendants Eric Sciaretta and Nicholas Sciaretta arising out of a 2007 automobile accident in which she was a passenger. On July 16, 2007 Cima’s vehicle was struck by a vehicle owned by Nicholas Sciaretta, typically operated by his son Eric Sciaretta. At the time of the accident, however, the vehicle was being driven by a friend of Eric Sciaretta’s, Stephen Sorbo.
At the time of the accident the plaintiff was a college student actively involved in cheerleading and other activities. After the accident, her activities were changed substantially and she underwent years of treatment for the injuries sustained in the accident.
On July 21, 2011, the jury entered a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, finding that Stephen Sorbo had failed to stop at a stop sign and broad-sided the vehicle Cima was riding in. At trial defendant Eric Sciaretta described the impact as significant and on a scale of “one-ten,” described it as a “nine.” The air bags deployed in Cima’s vehicle and her head, arm, knee, and lower back were injured as a result of the impact. At trial, the defendants did not dispute that Sorbo failed to stop at the stop sign or that Cima was injured as a result of the impact. Instead, the defendants disputed the extent to which Cima was injured and whether both Sciarettas were legally responsible in any way for the accident.
In Cook v. Nye,the Appellate Court found that “[a] parent’s retention of title to a car has frequently been sufficient justification for application of the family car doctrine when the doctrine is otherwise applicable, even if the vehicle has been completely paid for by the child in question and the child has beneficial ownership.” This rule holds true as long as it has been “shown that the driver has received general authority from the owner to use the car for a family purpose, that is, for the pleasure or convenience of the family or a member of it.”
In reaching its verdict the jury answered 17 jury interrogatories, including the first two interrogatories which dealt explicitly with the issue of whether Nicholas Sciaretta gave general authority, without restrictions, to Eric Sciaretta to use the family vehicle for his pleasure and convenience and whether Eric Sciaretta gave permission to operate the family car to Stephen Sorbo, both of which the jury answered affirmatively.
Since the jury found Eric Sciaretta had been given general authority, without restrictions, to drive the family vehicle owned by his father Nicholas Sciaretta and Eric Sciaretta had entrusted the driving of the family car to Stephen Sorbo, Stephen Sorbo’s negligence was imputed to the owner of the vehicle, Nicholas Sciaretta.
The jury found that the accident of July 16, 2007 had proximately caused the injuries claimed by the Laura Cima. Consequently, the jury entered a verdict in favor of the plaintiff in the amount of $256,058.56, which verdict included $245,000 in non-economic damages.
Cima v. Sciaretta, UWYCV0096001772, 2011 WL 4509917 (Conn. Super. Ct. Sept. 14, 2011) aff’d, 140 Conn. App. 167, 58 A.3d 345 (2013)
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