Pion Law obtains defense verdict in pedestrian strike case

POSTED JULY 11, 2022

Pion Law attorneys John Pion, Jim Girman and Jordan Hettrich recently obtained a defense verdict following a week-long trial in Federal Court in Erie, Pennsylvania. The case, Robert Repa and Jean Repa v. Frank Napierkowski and Hilltrux Tank Lines, Inc., stemmed from a May 2, 2018, incident in Cambridge Springs, Pennsylvania.

Plaintiffs alleged that on the night of the incident, Frank Napierkowski, a driver for Hilltrux Tank Lines, Inc., struck Robert Repa as Mr. Repa, an on-duty fire police officer, directed Mr. Napierkowski to make a turn in an emergency response area, causing Mr. Repa to suffer serious injuries to both of his legs. Plaintiffs argued that Mr. Napierkowski should be held to a heightened standard of care based on their position that the accident occurred in an emergency response area. At the close of the plaintiffs’ case, the defense successfully argued that the plaintiffs failed to establish that the accident qualified as an emergency response area, and for that reason, the Court declined to instruct the jury on any heightened standard of care.

Plaintiffs also claimed that Mr. Repa was required to undergo numerous hospitalizations and surgical procedures to treat his initial injuries, along with multiple subsequent infections and an ongoing leg wound, resulting in medical expenses in excess of $620,000.

At the time of trial, after more than five years of continuous medical treatment, Mr. Repa’s leg wound had still not healed. Claiming that Mr. Repa would need ongoing medical care for the remainder of his life, Plaintiffs claimed future medical expenses of $1.3 million.

At trial, the defense argued that Mr. Napierkowski bore no responsibility for the accident, as he was simply following directions provided to him by Mr. Repa, who failed to move out of the way and/or walked into the path of Mr. Napierkowski’s rear trailer tires as the trailer off-tracked during the turn.  The defense also highlighted numerous inconsistencies by Mr. Repa, who initially claimed that he was thrown over a guardrail and into a ravine during the accident, despite contrary versions having been offered by every other witness and Mr. Repa’s own attorney.

Citing records from Mr. Repa’s own treating doctors, the defense argued that Mr. Repa’s delay in healing and need for continued medical treatment were the result of his decision to continue smoking, despite repeated warnings from his treating doctors that his continued tobacco use would prevent his wound from healing.

Following three hours of deliberations over two days, the jury agreed with Mr. Napierkowski and returned a unanimous verdict finding that Mr. Napierkowski was not negligent, resulting in the entry of judgment in favor of Mr. Napierkowski and Hilltrux.

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