On February 18, 2016, a Bucks County jury awarded Steven Vickers of Morrisville $362,015 due to injuries suffered after he was accidentally shot by his friend, Charles Byle, III, of Levittown. The verdict followed a three-day trial in the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas in Doylestown. Yardley attorney Scott Fegley represented Vickers – the plaintiff and gunshot victim.
“The verdict was fair,” Fegley said. “The jury acknowledged the severity of the injury even though Mr. Vickers made a remarkable recovery in a relatively short period of time and is not restricted by his injuries today.”
Vickers, 26, was at Byle’s home on November 8, 2013, to help him clean out his garage. At the end of the day, Vickers walked into Byle’s bedroom to tell him he was leaving. Byle, holding a .357 Magnum revolver, pointed it at Vickers and pulled the trigger believing the gun was unloaded, but the gun discharged. The bullet passed through Vickers’ right bicep and into his chest cavity where it lodged in the 5th thoracic vertebrae of his spine.
Byle applied a tourniquet to Vickers’ arm and drove him to Lower Bucks Hospital in Bristol. Vickers was stabilized and airlifted to Temple University Hospital in Philadelphia where he underwent several surgeries to stop the bleeding and re-inflate his right lung. The bullet fractured a rib and punctured Vickers’ right lung, ending up near the descending thoracic aorta. It was too close to this major artery to be safely removed.
After being hospitalized at Temple for seven days, Vickers was discharged but was admitted to St. Mary Medical Center in Langhorne, PA a few days later because fluid filled his chest cavity. Vickers remained in the hospital another nine days.
Vickers sued Byle in 2013 on claims of assault and battery, recklessness and negligence. Byle agreed he was liable for the injuries and the parties also agreed Byle would pay not less than $81,000 to no more than $420,000 regardless of the jury’s verdict. The jury decided the issues of causation and damages.
The jury awarded the gunshot victim damages of $67,015 for past medical expenses; $200,000 for pain and suffering; $50,000 for loss of life’s pleasures, $5,000 for disfigurement, and $45,000 for future medical expenses resulting in the $362,015 verdict. Vickers’ estimates of his future medical expenses were hotly contested during the trial by the defense attorney, R. Anthony Michetti, of Doylestown.
Although Vickers has continuing pain in his right arm and back, he is not restricted in his activities and has been reluctant to seek further medical attention. “I think the jury recognized he should have some follow-up evaluation over the course of his life for his injuries,” Fegley said, “although the possibility of Steve developing more severe conditions later in life will always be there.”
“As a gun owner myself, I know how important it is to handle firearms safely. They are not toys and are never to be pointed at anyone except in the extreme situation of self-defense. But Steve was Byle’s friend, not an intruder. This was a near tragedy that could easily have been avoided.”
Scott Fegley is an attorney based in Yardley, Pennsylvania, who helps clients in personal injury, employment and business law matters. He’s licensed to practice law in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.