Celebrity Status vs. Claim Valuation

A passenger in a one-car accident involving Ndamukong Suh is suing the Lions defensive tackle for more than $1 million in an Oregon court.

A passenger in a one-car accident involving Ndamukong Suh is suing the Lions defensive tackle for more than $1 million in an Oregon court. The passenger, Saadia Van Winkle, alleges that Suh was negligent in the operation of his car causing a car accident which resulted in her suffering both a physical injury and emotional distress when Suh crashed his car into a light pole, drinking fountain and tree on December 3, 2011. The claimant, Saadia Van Winkle, allegedly now suffers from neck and back injuries as the direct and proximate result of the accident and has a scar from a laceration she sustained above her eye which required stitches. Her attorney is quoted in the article as stating that the lawsuit was neither excessive, nor trying to exploit Suh's fame. Following the accident, Suh allegedly showed up at Van Winkle's house and offered Van Winkle $700. http://www.freep.com/article/20120727/SPORTS01/307270171/Suh-facing-1-million-lawsuit?odyssey=mod|newswell|text|FRONTPAGE|s I have been practicing personal injury law in Ohio since 1990 and have handled my fair share of automobile accident collisions. It has been my experience that Million dollar cases are the exception not the rule. I have regularly handled collisions with injuries of similar nature to those Ms. Van Winkle is described as suffering. Rarely are those claims worth $1,000,000. What I can say is what I have articulated in prior blog posts. Most times when million dollar injuries are sustained there are insufficient coverage limits to pay the damages. From the limited facts I have read about this accident, it appears to me that:

  • Ms. Van Winkle is entitled to recover monetary damages from Suh as a result of the accident.
  • Suh apparently caused a 1 car collision.
  • Van Winkle was a passenger in the car accident who sustained an injury.
  • Suh had a duty to Van Winkle to operate his car in a fashion so as not to injury Van Winkle.
  • Since Suh breached this duty and wrecked, he should have to compensate Ms. Van Winkle for her injures.

The question becomes, how much is Ms.Van Winkle's case worth? Sadly, it appears to this personal injury lawyer that the million dollar's which has been asked for in the litigation is based largely upon Suh's fame rather than Van Winkle's injuries. This is a positive for Ms. Van Winkle because I trust that she would not wish to have truly suffered million dollar injuries; however, this is a negative for my profession as personal injury lawyers are once more sterotyped as pursuing unreasonable recoveries on cases. Suh (or his automobile insurance company) should compensate Van Winkle. However, it is unlikely that $1,000,000 will be the recovery. The celebrity status of Suh should not influence the claim valuation; however, the celebrity status of Suh does make for enticing headlines and conversational blogs.

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