Largest Individual Settlement in Illinois Personal Injury History
Diane Vasilion, 52, brain damaged and partially paralyzed after a 1994 multi-truck and car collision, will receive the largest individual personal injury settlement in Illinois history, $31,000,029, in an agreement reached today between her attorneys and multiple defendants in a case filed in the Circuit Court of Cook County.
Ms. Vasilion’s family will receive a total of $35,000,029 under the terms of the settlement agreement. The Vasilions are represented by Thomas A. Demetrio of Corboy & Demetrio.
Diane and her husband Bill, 49, of south suburban Palos Hills, will divide the $35,000,000, according to the firm. Both Ms. Vasilion’s $31,000,000 settlement for her injuries and Mr. Vasilion’s $4,000,000 settlement for the loss of his wife’s society (a legal term used to describe the marital relationship as it existed before the injury) are Illinois records.
“Diane’s injuries are horrifying and will require a lifetime of care,” said the firm. “Though she did nothing wrong, her life - and the life of her family - was forever changed by the reckless actions of others.”
Ms. Vasilion was injured on December 27, 1994, as she was driving her car on a ramp leading to the outbound lanes of the Stevenson Expressway at LaGrange Road. At the same time, a 7,500 pound metal container, loaded on a semi-tractor flatbed traveling in the opposite direction, struck the LaGrange overpass, causing the container to drop onto the expressway. Another semi-tractor trailer swerved to avoid the container, but was unable to do so. The impact of the container caused the tractor trailer’s brakes to fail, the steering to give out, and the vehicle’s hood to open, thus blocking the driver’s vision. The trailer then crossed the median, traveled over three additional lanes of traffic and crashed into the car being driven by Ms. Vasilion.
An investigation revealed that the height of the semi-tractor, including the metal container, exceeded Illinois height restrictions when it struck the overpass. Illinois law restricts vehicle height to 13' 6". The height of the tractor-trailer with the metal container was 14' 3". The LaGrange overpass is 13' 10" and was clearly marked.
In late 1998, Mr. Demetrio tried the case against three defendants: (1) Three I Truck Line, whose driver was carrying the metal container; (2) G&D Transportation which operated the container yard where the container was loaded; and (3) Hapag-Lloyd (America) Inc., which owned the metal container and authorized its loading. A Cook County jury returned a record $40 million verdict against all three defendants. The case was pending on appeal when the settlement was reached.
The firm explained that the defendants thought they could save about $250 by putting the oversized container on the trailer instead of having the tractor-trailer travel all the way from Peoria to Chicago without a load. “One of the G & D employees objected to putting the container on the truck knowing it would be overheight,” the firm said, “but a Hapag-Lloyd supervisor threatened him with a loss of company business if the load were not assembled.”
“The defendants’ actions in this case were outrageous,” said the firm. “They assembled the load knowing it would be too high. They knew the Illinois height restrictions, but they took risks simply to save a few dollars.”
Ms. Vasilion currently resides at the DuPage County Convalescent Center in Wheaton. One result of today’s settlement is that she will finally be able to rejoin her husband and teenage daughter, Laura. “Diane’s family has always wanted her to be cared for at home, but the costs are enormous,” said the firm. This settlement will enable the Vasilions to take care of Diane where she belongs - at home.”