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James Ludwig and Kristen Hughes v. United States of America

June 6, 2012

JAMES LUDWIG AND KRISTEN HUGHES
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert F. Kelly, Sr. J.

FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSIONS OF LAW

FINDINGS OF FACT

1. This personal injury lawsuit arises from a motor vehicle accident that occurred on January 18, 2008 (N.T. 7, 10)*fn1 .

2. The motor vehicle accident was a two car collision that occurred in the southbound lanes of Roosevelt Boulevard in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (N.T. 7, 10).

3. Plaintiff Kristen Hughes (hereinafter referred to as "Plaintiff Hughes") is 31 years old, and lives with her fiancee, Plaintiff James Ludwig (hereinafter referred to as "Plaintiff Ludwig") in Bensalem, PA with her three year old son. (N.T. 5, 6).

4. Plaintiff Ludwig is 63 years old (N.T. 47).

5. Plaintiff Hughes was the driver of the 1996 Mitsubishi Galant that was involved in the motor vehicle accident on January 18, 2008. (N.T. 7).

6. Plaintiff Ludwig was a front seat passenger in the Hughes vehicle at the time of the accident in question. (N.T. 54).

7. On the date of the accident, Gary Schammel was in Philadelphia for work-related training. (N.T. 143).

8. After the training, he began to travel home to Baltimore, Maryland. (N.T. 144, 153). At the time of the accident, Gary Schammel was driving a 2003, red Volkswagen Beetle. (N.T. 38, 152, 130).

9. At the time of the accident, Gary Schammel was operating his vehicle in the course and scope of his federal employment with an agency of the United States. (Compl., para. 4; Answer of U.S. to Compl., para. 4).

10. The weather conditions at the time of the accident were clear and dry. (N.T. 8-9, 181).

11. Roosevelt Boulevard in the vicinity of the accident is a 12 lane divided highway with six northbound lanes and six southbound lanes. The six southbound lanes are divided by a grass median into three inner lanes and three outer lanes. (N.T. 10-11).

12. Gary Schammel was traveling in the middle lane of the three local outer lanes at about 30 to 35 miles per hour. (N.T. 149, 159).

13. Also around that time, Plaintiff Hughes was driving her vehicle, a 1996 Mitsubishi Galant southbound on Roosevelt Boulevard in the same direction as Gary Schammel and in the right lane of the three outer lanes nearest the sidewalk. (N.T. 7, 10-12, 130). Plaintiff Ludwig was her passenger. (N.T. 8). Plaintiffs were on their way to a furniture store. (N.T. 54-55).

14. Suddenly and without warning, Plaintiff Hughes' vehicle struck the right passenger side mirror and the right front fender panel of Gary Schammel's vehicle near the right wheel as she sped by him on his right. (N.T. 145-146, 40). Neither Plaintiff nor Gary Schammel saw one another prior to the accident. (N.T. 40, 88, 146).

15. Schammel testified that the impact of the accident was minimal and felt like "someone kicking your car", it "felt like nothing." (N.T. 148-149, 161).

16. Plaintiff Ludwig testified that the impact knocked him into the door, denting the door, and that he bumped his right knee, bumped his right shoulder, jerked his head to the right and to the left, hit his left knee on the dashboard, and struck his left hip on the console between the seats. (N.T. 88). Plaintiff Hughes testified that the impact sent her moving forward and backward. (N.T. 41). Plaintiff Hughes also testified that there was one impact from the accident. (N.T. 40).

17. Schammel looked over at Plaintiff Hughes' vehicle when it struck him, and he saw Plaintiff Hughes talking on a cell phone. (N.T. 145-146). Plaintiff Hughes continued talking on the cell phone as both parties slowed their vehicles and pulled over. Id. Schammel's exact testimony on this point is as follows: "She never even took the phone away. It is like I was bothering her. She went blowing by me. She hit her mirror into my mirror and my mirror was broken forward." Id.

18. Schammel also testified, "Her hubcap hit my right front outer, right in front of the tire there is a little two inch black mark on my bumper and that hubcap just grabbed it, folded it up and shot it straight in the air.

When I got out of the car I also picked up her mirror and popped her mirror back in, but mine was broken forward, because she actually hit me driving mine forward. Hers folded back into her car and then dropped the lens out." (N.T. 150).

19. After the parties came to a stop, Schammel offered to pay for Plaintiff Hughes' hubcap rather than go through insurance to replace it. (N.T. 150). He was not ...


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