March 24, 2017 Fair, 78F

Jury awards almost $900,000 in personal injury case

WOODSTOCK – A jury has awarded a Twin Lakes, Wis., man almost $900,000 for injuries he suffered in a May 2007 crash involving a District 157 school bus.

It is the largest personal injury verdict against a school district or local public entity in the history of McHenry County, according to the Illinois Jury Verdict Reporter. The personal injury award also is the highest in McHenry County in the past 10 years.

The crash happened at the intersection of Route 173 and Lakeview Road in Richmond. According to the lawsuit, the bus, driven by Rhonda Fiumetto, slammed into the back of David Fuller’s Jeep while going almost 50 mph. The impact forced Fuller’s Jeep into the westbound lane of Route 173 and in front of oncoming traffic, where it was struck by a minivan also traveling about 50 mph.

Fuller’s attorneys, Lawrence Ruder and Colin O’Malley, said their client had been headed home from his job as a sheet metal worker at the time of the crash.

Ruder said Fuller fractured one of the vertebrae in his back, was sent to the hospital immediately from the scene, and had surgery within 24 hours. He has not been able to return to work, Ruder said.

But during the trial, attorneys for the school district argued that Fuller had prior back problems and had been receiving treatment for pain for three years.

They said Fuller made a sudden stop in front of the bus, and a witness testified to that effect. Ruder, who tries most of his cases in Cook County, said that he was pleased with how much the jury awarded.

“[McHenry County] is a very conservative county, meaning the juries are very limited in terms of the amount of money they’re willing to give,” he said.

The crash also injured two children, the bus driver, and another motorist, police said at the time. Fiumetto was charged with failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident, but she later pleaded guilty to having no valid registration. She was fined and placed on 100 days of court supervision.

• Northwest Herald reporter Hilary Gowins contributed to this report.

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