Negligent Hiring Wrongful Death Case Settles for $4 Million on Eve of Trial
A $4 million settlement was announced Thursday, the first day of a scheduled trial, arising out of the wrongful death of Stephen Newcomb who was killed on January 29, 2002. Chicago personal injury and wrongful death lawyer, Philip Harnett Corboy, Jr. of Corboy & Demetrio, represented the estate of Newcomb.
The lawsuit claimed that Newcomb, age 49, was driving west on Roosevelt Road in Forest Park, Illinois. Oscar Andrade, a salesman for defendant, Jerry Gleason Chevrolet, was taking a Chevy Camaro for a high-speed "test drive" eastbound on Roosevelt Road when he lost control of the vehicle, crossed the centerline, and collided with Newcomb’s car. John Patton and Brian Weig of Patton & Ryan, who represented Jerry Gleason Chevrolet and Autonation, Inc. as defendants in the case, asserted that Andrade was not authorized to take the showroom Camaro, without license plates, for a joy ride, and, accordingly, the dealership was not responsible for the acts of Andrade.
This trial was originally scheduled to begin in November 2005, but just 5 days prior to trial, a co-worker of Andrade who was a passenger in the Camaro at the time of the crash revealed his opinion that Andrade was impaired by marijuana at the time of the crash. Further evidence indicated that the dealership may have falsified a drug test prior to Andrade’s hiring three weeks before the crash. According to Corboy, "The revelation of the marijuana evidence suddenly changed this case from a simple agency claim to a complicated negligent hiring theory." Both sides retained expert witnesses to offer opinions regarding intoxication.
Stephen Newcomb had been a maintenance engineer at MacNeal Hospital, but was unemployed at the time of his death. He is survived by his wife, Kathleen, and three adult children.