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On November 4, 2014, Plaintiffs Steven Thomas and Lance Thomas, who are father and son, turned onto New Bethel Road from Shipley Hollow Road. Steven Thomas was operating a Victory 8-Ball motorcycle. Lance Thomas was operating a Harley Davidson motorcycle. At the same time, Lance Davis, driving a combine, was traveling in the opposite direction from one field to another on New Bethel Road. The header on the combine was 20 feet wide and New Bethel Road measured 19 feet. Plaintiffs claimed that Lance Davis initially moved over and there was room for them to safely pass. However, as they got close to the combine, Lance Davis suddenly swerved into their lane of travel. Lance Thomas tried to brake and get off the roadway. Steven Thomas’s motorcycle hit the motorcycle operated by his son. Lance Davis contends that he saw the plaintiffs when they made their turn onto New Bethel Road. They were going fast. He pulled off the side of the roadway to allow them to pass. Several feet ahead of him, the two motorcycles collided. The motorcycles did not make contact with the combine or the header on the combine.
After the collision, Lance Davis checked on the plaintiffs and then left the scene to continue cutting beans. He came back to the scene to meet with the investigating officer, Trooper Michael Edwards.
The Thomases filed suit against Mr. Davis for negligence and their insurance company, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company for uninsured motorist coverage. Lance Davis did not have liability insurance on the combine. State Farm “dropped down” to defend Mr. Davis and opted out of the litigation.
To support their claim of the combine swerving, Plaintiffs relied on photographs taken at the scene four days after the accident. The photographs showed tire marks in the roadway. However, Lance Thomas explained that the tire marks did not belong to his combine, which was a single wheel; rather they belonged to a dual-wheel tractor.
Trooper Edwards testified for the defense. He measured tire marks off the side of the roadway that were consistent with where Lance Davis said he stopped his combine. The tire markings measured five to eight feet off the roadway. Trooper Edwards also testified about the location of the fluid spill, which he determined was the area of impact, and was in front of the tire markings. Plaintiff Lance Thomas admitted to the trooper that he was traveling ten miles over the speed limit. Trooper Edwards opined that the plaintiffs had room to safely pass the combine.
Steven Thomas sustained a bimalleolar ankle fracture and underwent surgery. Lance Thomas was diagnosed ten days after the accident with a small navicular fracture of his foot and had bruising on his shin. Lance Thomas also claimed that approximately two months after the accident, he sustained a tibia-fibula fracture that required surgery because of the accident. On cross-examination, evidence was presented from Lance Thomas’s Facebook page that he sustained the fractured tibia-fibula when he tripped over a toolbox – a fact that he denied throughout discovery and litigation.
Sherry Thomas, the wife of Steven Thomas and mother of Lance, made a loss of consortium claim. She testified that in the days and weeks after the accident, she had to do everything for Steven Thomas, including bathing him and changing his bandages.
After deliberating for approximately an hour and a half, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant as to all three plaintiffs.