Florida Jury Awards $4.5M To Woman Injured In Box Truck Crash

A recent jury verdict in Duval County has awarded $4.5 million to a young woman injured as a teenager in 2013. The trial concluded in October following a decade of policy denials by State Farm Insurance Company.

Semi-truck accident

BySeth Mills, J.D.


Published on January 26, 2024

Semi-truck accident

A Teenager Hit by a Truck

On June 5, 2013, in Jacksonville, Florida, 17-year-old Catherine Hudnall was riding in the passenger seat of her mother’s car. Her mother, Brenda Hudnall, was driving. A box truck, driven by Craig Shriner, hit the vehicle on the passenger side. Catherine Hudnall said she felt “instant neck pain” but she did not lose consciousness and the airbags did not deploy. The injuries she would be treated for included a herniated disc in her neck, and a torn labrum and Bankart lesion in her left shoulder.

In the aftermath of the accident, Ms. Hudnall was treated for her shoulder and neck injuries. In 2013, this primarily consisted of physical therapy, chiropractic treatments, and pain management.

Continued Pain and Impairment

In the years following the accident, Ms. Hudnall continued to suffer from pain, weakness, and numbness which limited movements in her neck, shoulder, and arm. She testified that the pain interfered with her sleeping and that shoulder pain made it difficult to drive comfortably for more than 30 minutes at a time. She also started having migraine headaches. Although she did not stop seeing her doctors, she did not pursue treatment aggressively. Ms. Hudnall testified that as a teenager she was told there was nothing else that could be done, and that she wanted to avoid surgery.

State Farm Claim Denials

The truck driver who hit the Hudnalls, Craig Shriner, did not carry an insurance policy sufficient to cover the extent of the damages. Brenda Hudnall filed claims for Catherine’s treatments under her own automobile coverage through State Farm.

In denying the claim, State Farm claimed that Brenda Hudnall had been driving negligently and that Catherine Hudnall had been wearing her seatbelt improperly. State Farm also relied heavily on a theory that the crash was not the cause of Ms. Hudnall’s neck injury and subsequent treatment because she had been in another car accident in January 2013.

The Prior Accident

The Plaintiffs admitted that Ms. Hudnall had injured her neck in the January 2013 accident, five months prior to the box truck accident. Following that incident, she was treated by a chiropractor. Throughout the State Farm litigation, her doctors maintained that she had nearly recovered from the injury to her neck by June 2013, when Ms. Hudnall was hit by Craig Shriner. In addition, State Farm was unable to produce evidence of a shoulder injury resulting from the January crash.

In his closing argument at trial, Ms. Hudnall’s attorney, Dennis Middleton of Morgan & Morgan law firm, addressed the theory and distinguished between “activation” and “aggravation” of an injury. He directed the jury that they could award damages even if they found the neck injury to have been caused by the January crash and aggravated by the June accident.

A Pattern of Low Settlement Offers

Catherine Hudnall filed a complaint against Craig Shriner and State Farm in May 2017 with a demand for a jury trial. In 2017, State Farm made a settlement offer of $100,000. Over the next six years, they would make similar offers in 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021. In June 2020, Ms. Hudnall also filed a Civil Remedy Notice under Florida law, giving State Farm the opportunity to pay out the claim within the policy limits rather than proceeding to trial. State Farm allowed it to expire.

Ms. Hudnall would continue undergoing medical treatment for her injuries, now including two surgeries, steroid injections, disc fusion, and more. As part of the litigation, she underwent numerous medical examinations by her treating doctors as well as State Farm’s experts. In one examination, one of the State Farm attorneys determined that Ms. Hudnall would need no further treatment less than three months prior to one of her surgeries.

In 2020, Craig Shriner was voluntarily dismissed from the case.

Continued Impact

In mid-2020, Ms. Hudnall began working in a Publix as a pharmacy technician. In 2022, now in her early twenties, Ms. Hudnall testified that she still had significant limitations due to the accident, including not being able to lift items overhead, and migraines and dizziness. Although she was able to work full-time and wanted to pursue a career in pharmacy science, she was still relying on medications to combat her symptoms, including pain relievers, muscle relaxers, and nausea reducers.

Trial and Verdict

The trial started on October 11, 2023. The parties stipulated in advance that the only issues of fact to be decided were the extent of Ms. Hudnall's injuries and damages caused by the June 2013 crash, whether Ms. Hudnall had suffered a permanent injury as a result, and the extent of the damages for past and future medical expenses and non-economic damages.

In his closing, Mr. Middleton asked the jury to award over $17 million for a lifetime of pain and suffering. State Farm argued that Ms. Hudnall’s medical expenses were not reasonable or necessary, and told the jury to award $50,000. On October 13, the jury returned a verdict of nearly $4.5 million: $397,779.92 for past medical expenses, $135,550 for future medical expenses, $627,703 for past pain and suffering, and $3.3 million for future pain and suffering

Following the jury’s verdict, Ms. Hudnall moved to amend her complaint to add a count of statutory bad faith. She alleges that State Farm had a statutory duty to attempt to resolve her claim in good faith, which they violated by offering settlements too low to cover even her medical expenses. State Farm opposes the motion, and the litigation is likely to continue.

Court records are available through the Duval County Clerk of the Circuit Court. The case caption is 2017-CA-3146.

About the author

Seth Mills, J.D.

Seth Mills, J.D.

Seth Mills, J.D., a career counselor at New York Law School, has a substantial background in legal education and public interest initiatives. Currently serving as the Director of Public Interest & Pro Bono Initiatives and an Adjunct Professor for the Law Office Externship Seminar at New York Law School, Seth focuses on guiding law students in their professional development and legal externship experiences.

Prior to these roles, Seth was a Legal Content Writer for the Expert Institute, contributing to the development and curation of legal content. At Lawline.com, Seth held multiple positions, including Senior Program Attorney and Managing Blog Editor, where he was responsible for creating legal educational materials and managing legal publications.

Seth's legal career began as an Associate Attorney at Sterling Analytics Group, providing a foundation in practical legal work. Additionally, Seth volunteered as a Policy Advocate with the Police Reform Organizing Project (PROP), demonstrating a commitment to public interest law.

In terms of education, Seth earned a J.D. cum laude from New York Law School, where they were involved in NYLS OUTlaws and the Criminal Law Society. Seth also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Linguistics from Bard College at Simon's Rock. Their educational and professional experiences reflect a deep commitment to legal education, public interest law, and the mentoring of future legal professionals.

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