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Morris man awarded more than $1 million by jury

MORRIS – Up until six years ago, 48-year-old Thomas Hagerman never missed a day of work and spent his free time at the gym, preparing for weightlifting competitions.

But that all changed in 2008, when Hagerman’s Dodge truck collided with a Mercury Grand Marquis at the intersection of Lisbon and Bedford roads. The Morris resident suffered injuries that left him disabled for the rest of his life, according to the civil lawsuit complaint filed in 2010.

Last week, after a four-year civil lawsuit, a jury decided Hagerman’s damages were worth $1.08 million.

“This was a verdict that, I think, surprised everybody as far as the amount,” said Mark Rigazio, Hagerman’s lawyer. “It’s very rare to get a $1 million verdict in Grundy County. There is only a handful that I know of.”

The damages are to be paid by the defendant, Betty Leake of Verona, who was driving the car that collided with Hagerman at the time of the accident. At that time, she was cited for failure to yield.

Leake was driving east and Hagerman west on Bedford Road when Leake, allegedly, made a left turn directly into Hagerman’s path.

In the original lawsuit complaint, Hagerman alleged Leake was “being negligent” while operating her vehicle, which caused the collision.

Although Leake denied those claims, the jury ruled against her, and requested she pay the $1.08 million in damages.

Leake’s lawyer, Gary Wunderlich, could not immediately be reached Thursday.

“Our original demand was for $650,000,” Rigazio said. “During trial, at closing argument, I asked for $1.2 million and [the jury] darn near came up with that number.”

Close to $289,000 of the damages were for Hagerman’s medical expenses, which he incurred after undergoing extensive neck and spine surgery.

Hagerman is unable to return to work, but Rigazio said they did not include that amount in the damages because of a knee injury sustained after the accident. The knee injury could also be a contributing factor in Hagerman’s inability to work, Rigazio said.

The largest portion of damages, $450,000, were allotted for loss of normal life. Although he can walk, Hagerman can no longer enjoy physical activity as he once did because of damage to his spine and neck.

“It’s just kind of eating away at him,” Rigazio said. “He can’t even think about going to the gym anymore.”

Other damages included in the total amount were past and future pain and suffering, past lost earnings and future medical expenses.

Hagerman declined to comment and directed Rigazio to speak on his behalf.

Rigazio said he and Hagerman are thankful to the jury and his co-council Joe Mueller for making the verdict possible.

“I have never had a jury that I observed, paid so much attention and took so many notes. I was stunned,” Rigazio said. “They were fantastic.”

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