Posted on Jan 07, 2007
Jury awards $450,000 to family
NATALIE NEYSA ALUND
Herald Staff Writer
BRADENTON - A jury Friday awarded almost $450,000 to the family of a then 15-year-old girl permanently disabled in a late 2002 traffic accident.
"I'm at a loss for words," said Ames W. Forbes II, the father of Brittany Forbes, who sustained brain damage in a Dec. 8, 2002, accident near the intersection of State Road 70 and Lakewood Ranch Boulevard. "This girl . . . has the intelligence (quotient) of a 12-year-old child. She's now 19."
Ames Forbes said the monetary amount was not sufficient to support his daughter's past and future needs.
Manatee County resident Thomas Robert Bruessow, according to a civil complaint, was driving a four-door Mazda 626 when he lost control and flipped the car three times. It came to rest in a retention pond. The accident caused severe permanent head injury to Brittany Forbes, who also was in the car.
Forbes said his daughter, who was a recent acquaintance of Bruessow, was getting a ride home to Myakka City on the night of the accident.
Brittany's mother, Mary Michelle Forbes, mumbled, "unbelievable," as she left Courtroom A of the Manatee County Courthouse on Friday. She filed the 2003 civil suit against Lori Ann and Steven Lee Davidson and Wendy Anne Bruessow on behalf of Thomas Bruessow, a minor at the time of the accident.
Thomas Bruessow, according to the civil suit, was driving the Davidsons' Mazda without a driver license. Wendy Anne Bruessow is Thomas Bruessow's mother.
Defense attorney Ray Haas, who represented the Davidsons and Wendy Anne Bruessow, said he and his clients were pleased with the verdict.
During the three-week civil trial heard by Circuit Judge Durand Adams, Haas told jurors Thomas Bruessow was not driving the vehicle, but that if jurors found he was responsible for Brittany's injuries, that they should award her family no more than $1 million.
Forbes' attorney, Ken Ward, asked jurors to award Brittany Forbes $3 million to $4 million in economic damages and a unspecified amount in noneconomic damages for medical bills, pain and suffering, future wage loss and other items.
After five hours of deliberations, a six-person jury found both Bruessow and Brittany were equally negligent in the accident.
Witnesses during the trial testified that both had been drinking the night of the accident. When officers arrived at the accident scene, Thomas Bruessow was already out of the car, according to testimony. Medical workers pulled Brittany Forbes from the passenger seat through the driver's door.
Ward said his clients would receive about $450,000. Jurors did not award Brittany Forbes money for lost earning ability.
Ward said his clients will appeal the verdict.
"The jury found she was permanently and totally disabled, yet they gave her no money for lost earning ability," Ward said. "That's the inconsistency in the verdict, and that's why we intend to appeal."