Plaintiff Gregory Gordon, a professional truck driver for Watkins Brothers out of Georgia, drove a flat bed semi loaded with 70,000 pounds of building materials north bound on I-90 in downstate Illinois on his way to Minnesota. He came upon the slow moving passenger van of Dorothy Lucas who drove herself and her family back to Chicago from a vacation in Louisiana. Ms. Lucas experienced a flat tire and began to slow to keep control of her van and pull over onto the shoulder. The collision was extreme with the semi truck rolling over and the van being flipped onto its side. Mr. Gordon suffered injuries and incurred medical expenses of $66,000 for a fractured leg needing surgery and facial surgery for check bone repairs. He was in a wheelchair for 6 months and lost $35,000 in wages. He never returned back to work as an over the road driver. In addition, the 6 passengers in Ms. Lucas’ can brought claims against Mr. Gordon and Watkins which were settled for $120,000 collectively. Mr. Gordon sued Ms. Lucas in the Circuit Court of Cook County and Watkins Brothers joined the lawsuit seeking recovery against Ms. Lucas for the sums it paid to her passengers.
The evidence was disputed. Mr. Gordon contended that Ms. Lucas lingered on the highway too long travelling well below the minimum speed limit of 45 mph. He also contended that she was fully in the right hand moving lane and he had no chance to avoid her as traffic in between he and Ms. Lucas moved to the left lane. Ms. Lucas contended that as soon as her tire indicator activated on her dashboard, she slowed and activated her hazard lights. She also contended that she had almost fully pulled onto the shoulder when the collision happened. The Illinois State Police and its reconstruction team concluded that Ms. Lucas was at fault and ticketed her for the incident. Mr. Gordon and Ms. Lucas retained their own reconstruction experts who arrived at differing conclusions about Mr. Lucas’ speed and position on the roadway. Ms. Lucas also developed evidence showing Mr. Gordon’s rig violated some specifications of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Act. The parties could not agree on settlement in that the Ms. Lucas’ insurer made no offers to settle and the Plaintiffs demanded the entirety of her $300,000 coverage.
The parties agreed to a binding arbitration before Judge Michael Panter, retired from the Circuit Court of Cook County, at ADR Systems, Inc. in Chicago. The parties testified as did their respective experts and submitted video evidence depositions of the State Police and medical witnesses. Counsels for Mr. Gordon and Watkins Brothers argued that their respective clients were entitled to an award of $500,000 in total. Ms. Lucas argued that she was not at fault for the accident and that Mr. Gordon was responsible for the accident urging the Court to find in her favor. Judge Panter, unaware of the insurance coverage and the limits pursuant to the arbitration contract, deliberated on the matter for 4 days and returned a verdict for Ms. Lucas on all claims.