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Persistence Pays in Plymouth Personal Injury Case

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Plymouth, MAThe victim of a personal injury case in Plymouth is no longer around to collect the proceeds of her personal injury lawsuit; however her two surviving sons will split the judgment once the plaintiff's personal injury lawyer takes his cut. And while $75,000 seems like a pittance, it's something of a miracle there was even an award at all.

It's also not a stretch that plaintiff Shirley O'Connell isn't available to see this day. She would have been 82, but sadly she died in 2006. Even so, the 'slip' in her slip and fall personal injury case happened way back when Bill Clinton was just running for President.

It was in January of 1992 that O'Connell, then 65, was crossing a road in Plymouth when she slipped and fell on some loose asphalt. That section of road was being repaved at the time.

The personal injury victim suffered a fractured wrist, required a cast and additional occupational therapy. In the end, O'Connell was left with a permanent partial disability and litigated against the paving company for damages in Superior Court.

What followed was a 17-year process that could be likened to a Keystone Kops chase.

The paving company, Todesca-Forte of Rhode Island (no longer operating) claimed it carried no insurance. After concluding it could not reach a $25,000 threshold Superior Court justices moved the case to District Court, which subsequently awarded the plaintiff $2,270 for her medical bills and $20,000 for negligence.

The paving contractor appealed, during which time it was discovered that Todesca did indeed have insurance after all, but was saddled with a rider that required it to pay the first $250,000 of any claim. That revelation motivated Todesca to drop its appeal and agree to pay the $22,270 judgment.

However, before it could pay the personal injury judgment, the company went bankrupt.

O'Connell's personal injury lawyer then set out on a quest to for a defendant. Attorney Brian Bowen of Winokur, Serkey & Rosenberg of Plymouth. pursued Reliance, the insurer for Todesca, but it too went bankrupt. From there, according to the October 5th issue of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly he went after the Massachusetts Insurers Insolvency Fund. They referred him to the Rhode Island Fund.

In Superior Court Judge Richard Connon found for the plaintiff and the Appeals Court affirmed the ruling, finally ending a case that took 17 years and legal fees valued at $270,000. As the award has grown to $75,000 with interest, Bowen stands to earn one-third of that sum as his contingency.

"My only regret after 17 years," says Bowen, "is that Shirley wasn't here to get the phone call from me."

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