Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Jury awards $31 million to Mateys

Ford exonerated, teen driver held negligent

Express Staff Writer

Jess Matey, center, undergoes therapy at the Sagebrush Equine Training Center for the Handicapped. At left is SETCH therapist Dan Hayes, while seated behind Matey is therapist Lisa Scales. A Blaine County jury awarded Matey and his parents more than $31 million in a lawsuit on Monday. Photo by Mountain Express

A Blaine County jury has awarded a Hailey family more than $31 million in a lawsuit stemming from a 2004 vehicle accident that left a Hailey teenager permanently impaired.

But it's money the family may never receive because Ford Motor Co. was exonerated by the jury and another Hailey teenager, who was driving the vehicle at the time of the accident, was held 100 percent responsible.

The jury reached its decision late Monday afternoon in the civil trial referred to as "Matey versus Ford." Chris and Pam Matey, who listed a Hailey address, filed the lawsuit in May 2005 alleging that negligence on the part of the automaker contributed to the severe head injuries that their son Jess Matey received in the accident.

Sean Logullo, who is now 18 and was the driver of the vehicle, was also named as a defendant, as were his parents, Mark and Suzanne Logullo, of Hailey.

The jury further determined that Mark and Suzanne Logullo were not negligent for letting their son, who was then 16, drive the 2001 Ford Explorer Sport Trak that rolled and struck a tree on June 17, 2004, on Lower Broadford Road west of Bellevue.

Testimony in the trial, which started on Feb. 21, concluded on March 8. The jury began deliberations on Friday, March 9, recessed for the weekend and continued deliberations on Monday, announcing that it had reached a decision at about 4 p.m.

Only nine of the 12 jurors signed the decision document, indicating that three of them didn't agree with the verdict.

The jury awarded the Mateys $19,626,749.56 in real damages, including past and future medical expenses and future lost wages and household services.

An additional $12 million was awarded for "non-economic damages," which included $8 million to Jess Matey and $2 million each to his parents.

According to the civil complaint filed by the Mateys, the accident left Jess Matey with "permanent traumatic brain injury."

Asked to comment on the verdict, Mark Logullo said Tuesday that apart from $50,000 in liability insurance "the Mateys will never see any of that money."

"Sure they passed a judgment against my son, but the Mateys lost," he said. "We don't know what's next. It sounds like bankruptcy is next—for an 18-year-old."

Logullo said Sean, who was also severely injured in the accident, was forthright and honest about his responsibility. "My son admitted the whole thing—he was a man about it."

Logullo further said that Ford should have been held liable because the vehicle was only moving at 12 miles per hour when it hit the tree and the roof collapsed on the two teenagers.

"The automotive industry puts millions of people into cars and their safety standards are bare minimum" Logullo said. "They care more about money than they do about people."

The Matey family asked that their attorney Rob Palmer be contacted to comment on the verdict, but the Idaho Mountain Express was unable to reach him as of late Tuesday afternoon.

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