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Boyd v. United States

United States District Court, S.D. Florida

October 20, 2017

AUDREY BOYD, Plaintiff,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          ROBIN L. ROSENBERG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         THIS CAUSE is before the Court following the non-jury trial held on September 19, 20, 22, and 25, 2017. This case arises from an accident between Plaintiff Audrey Boyd and Karen DeLuca, a mail carrier with the United States Postal Service (“USPS”). At the time of the accident, Ms. Boyd was on foot and Ms. DeLuca was driving a postal service truck. Ms. Boyd filed this negligence action against the United States of America pursuant to the Federal Torts Claims Act, alleging that Ms. DeLuca's negligence caused the accident. See DE 1 (Complaint). The United States of America contests liability, causation, and the amount of damages sought by Ms. Boyd. See DE 8 (Answer).

         I. INTRODUCTION

         The Court first summarizes the background facts before delineating the specific factual findings of the Court.

         A. The Parties

         Audrey Boyd is a sixty-two-year-old resident of West Palm Beach, Florida. Trial Tr. Vol. 1 at 10:10-18. At the time of the accident, Ms. Boyd was sixty years old and employed at a daycare. Id. at 11:8-12:11. She still works in daycare, but at a different facility. Id. Ms. Karen DeLuca is a letter carrier with the U.S. Postal Service and has been a letter carrier for twenty-one years. Trial Tr. Vol. 4 at 3:19-4:18. Ms. DeLuca drives a right-hand driven long life vehicle (“LLV”) to deliver the mail. Id. at 5:9-5:18. The LLV is equipped with the steering wheel on the right side of the vehicle. Id. at 5:17-19.

         B. The Accident

         1. Undisputed Facts

         On May 13, 2013, Ms. DeLuca was on her first day on a new delivery route. Id. at 22:11-12. At the 2700 block of Broadway Avenue, Ms. DeLuca parked her LLV with the right wheels on the sidewalk and the left wheels on the road. Id. at 12:18-23. Upon returning to her parked LLV, Ms. DeLuca entered the LLV, id. at 17:10-12, and backed up, id. at 20:23.

         2. Lay Testimony about the Accident

         a. Ms. Boyd's Testimony

         Ms. Boyd testified that, on May 13, 2013, she was returning from her lunch break to her work at a daycare center. Trial Tr. Vol. 1. at 13:25-14:14:3. Ms. Boyd was walking on the sidewalk on Broadway Avenue when she saw the LLV parked on the sidewalk. Id. at 15:24-25. There was not enough room for her to pass by the LLV on the right side. Id. at 16:14-18. She walked right up behind the LLV. Id. at 17:23-25. She either got within two to four inches of the LLV, id. at 42:7-10, or a little further away from the LLV, id. at 57:20-58:16. The LLV then backed up into her. Id. at 16:1-2. The LLV stopped and then backed up into her again. Id. at 16:2-3. Ms. Boyd never fell to the ground during the incident. Id. at 45:12-13.

         Ms. Boyd testified that she immediately felt pain in her back which shot up to her neck. Id. at 20:4-16. She had never experienced this type of pain in her back before. Id. at 20:17-19. Ms. DeLuca got out of the LLV and called 911. Id. at 22:2-6. Paramedics came to the scene but Ms. Boyd did not let them examine her. Id. at 22:8-23:7. The paramedics transferred her to St. Mary's hospital where she saw a doctor and was released. Id. at 23:25-24:11.

         Ms. Boyd testified that she saw a chiropractor the day after the incident. Id. at 25:4-7. The chiropractor referred her to another doctor, Dr. Roush, who ordered MRIs and injections into her neck and lower back. Id. at 25:10-26:5. Because the pain in her back returned after the injections, Ms. Boyd saw Dr. Lenard who performed surgery on her lower back. Id. at 28:18-20.

         Ms. Boyd testified that she still has pain and that she can no longer work with the children at the day care in the same way that she previously could. Id. at 37:10-38:8.

         Ms. Boyd testified that she had received various medical bills, id. at 31:4-35:2 & Pl.'s Exs. 14-30, and that some of her doctors had received letters of protection regarding her treatment, id. at 50:10-51:9.

         b. Mr. Gregory Brown's Testimony

         Gregory Brown was employed by the U.S. Postal Service at the time of the incident and was Ms. DeLuca's supervisor. Trial Tr. Vol. 2. at 4:22-6:2. As part of his job as a supervisor, Mr. Brown had to investigate accident scenes. Id. at 6:3-5. He explained that employees are instructed to immediately contact the post office to report any accidents, id. at 6:14-16, and to ascertain if medical care is needed, id. 6:19-21. Mr. Brown testified that USPS has a kit that is used in investigating the scene of accidents; the kit includes a camera and USPS forms that are to be filed out at the scene. Id. at 6:8-13, 7:9-12. Mr. Brown recalls getting notice of the May 13, 2013 accident. Id. 7:18-22. He testified that when he arrived at the scene, he and the acting supervisor saw the “postal vehicle and Ms. DeLuca outside standing on the sidewalk.” Id. at 8:5-8. Mr. Brown testified that Ms. DeLuca was the only one at the scene when he arrived. Id. at 8:9-10. The police department arrived maybe 15 minutes later. Id. at 8:23-24.

         Mr. Brown testified that he walked around the LLV and that he took photographs of the LLV. Id. at 8:14-17. Mr. Brown testified that the LLV was straddling the curb with “two wheels on the road and two wheels on the sidewalk.” Id. at 8:12-13. Mr. Brown was shown photographs of the LLV which he identified as photographs he had taken on the day of the accident. Id. 12:1-11 & Def.'s Ex. C. Mr. Brown was also shown Defendant's Exhibits D and E which he identified as photos of the LLV he had taken on the day of the incident. Id. at 13:17- 25. Mr. Brown testified that the photographs “fairly and accurately depict the scene as it was that day.” Id. at 14:6-10. Mr. Brown testified that, as a USPS supervisor, he would prefer that the letter carriers not park the LLVs straddling the sidewalk but that sometimes happens. Id. at 14:18-21. However, he testified that USPS instructs its drivers not to block driveways and sidewalks. Id. 14:22-25.

         Mr. Brown testified that based on his investigation, Ms. DeLuca did not block the sidewalk, id. at 15:2, and that there was ample room for someone of Ms. Boyd's size to pass on the sidewalk, id. 21:17-22:1. Mr. Brown testified that entry and exit of the LLV must be from the right side of the vehicle and that entry and exit could not be made from the left because “there is a large metal tray that is preventing anyone from exiting or entering on the left side.” Id. at 22:2-8. Mr. Brown agreed that if the LLV was blocking Mrs. Boyd's path on the sidewalk, it also would have prevented the letter carrier from getting out on the right side and delivering the mail. Id. at 22:18-21.

         c. Ms. Deborah Wilcox's Testimony

         Deborah Wilcox, Ms. Boyd's daughter, testified that she learned of the event from Ms. Boyd. She did not go to the hospital on the day of the event or for surgery and she did not attend any of Ms. Boyd's doctors' visits. Trial Tr. Vol. 2 at 124:22-23, 128:8-9, 129:24-25. Ms. Wilcox testified that her mother had not complained about pain in her low back or neck prior to the incident, id. at 124:24-125:10, but now she complains when she moves too fast or stands up or sits down, id. at 131:14-15. Ms. Wilcox could not think of any hobbies the Plaintiff engaged in prior to the event. Id. at 131:22-132:1-10. She testified that her mother can no longer sit crisscross apple sauce with the children at the daycare, nor bend or run with them. Id. at 127:12- 15.

         d. Mr. Brian Bartlett's Testimony

         Brian Bartlett, employed with the West Palm Beach Fire Rescue as a paramedic for eight years, responded to the 911 call in this case. Trial Tr. Vol. 3 at 4:5-9. Mr. Bartlett has responded to as many as 70-90 calls a shift. Id. at 5:5-6. He relied upon his report to testify as to the events in this matter. Id. at 4:25-7:5. Mr. Bartlett responded to the incident on May 13, 2013 at 13:14, id. at 6:1-4, and found Ms. Boyd in “no apparent distress.” Id. at 10:6-7. She was oriented as to place, time, and person. Id. at 9:15-16, 10:4-5. Ms. Boyd was ...


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