United States District Court, S.D. Florida
L. ROSENBERG UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
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
Court first summarizes the background facts before
delineating the specific factual findings of the Court.
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.
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.
Lay Testimony about the Accident
Ms. Boyd's Testimony
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Mr. Gregory Brown's Testimony
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.
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.
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.
Ms. Deborah Wilcox's Testimony
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.
Mr. Brian Bartlett's Testimony
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