$18 million verdict for family of teen left with brain damage after struck by semi near Sauk Village in 2016

Gustavo Cornejo Jr., then 17, was fixing the lights on a landscaping trailer on the shoulder of Illinois Route 394 expressway when he was struck from behind by the semi.

SHARE $18 million verdict for family of teen left with brain damage after struck by semi near Sauk Village in 2016
Bradley Cosgrove shows a photograph of Gustavo Cornejo Jr. in a hospital bed at a news conference announcing the verdict Nov. 6, 2021.

Bradley Cosgrove shows a photograph of Gustavo Cornejo Jr. in a hospital bed at a news conference announcing the verdict Nov. 6, 2021.

Clifford Law Offices

A jury awarded $18.15 million to the family of a teen who was left with brain damage after being struck by a semitrailer while fixing a vehicle on Illinois Route 394 in the south suburbs in 2016.

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The jury returned its verdict Monday afternoon for Gustavo Cornejo Jr. and his mother Francine Cornejo, who filed the suit through her attorneys at Clifford Law. The suit alleged negligence on the part of the truck driver and his employers, Alliance Shippers Inc. and Dakota Lines Inc., according to the suit.

On Sept. 27, 2016, Gustavo Cornejo’s family pulled over on the shoulder of the highway near Sauk Village to deal with faulty lights on a landscaping trailer they were hauling, Clifford Law partner Bradley Cosgrove said at a news conference held over Zoom. Gustavo Cornejo, who was 17 years old at the time, was standing outside of the vehicle, checking the lights, when a semi careened off the road and struck him from behind.

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Francine Cornejo

Clifford Law Offices

He was thrown 30 feet after the impact and suffered traumatic brain injuries, internal injuries, fractured ribs, a broken back and a skull fracture, Cosgrove said. He was in a coma for two weeks and spent a month at Stroger Hospital.

Francine Cornejo said the years following the crash have been “the most difficult” for her and her family.

“In 2016, my son, Gustavo, Jr., was a 17-year-old with the hopes and dreams of every other teenager. Now, all those dreams are lost; they are gone,” Francine Cornejo said. “I am so grateful to the jurors who understood through their verdict what my son is going through and will be going through for the rest of his life.”

“He has had a very rough road,” Cosgrove said. “He has recovered to some degree but still requires supervision in most aspects of his life. At the time of the crash Gustavo Jr. was 17 years old and today still suffers from emotional, psychological and traumatic brain injuries.”

The jury deliberated for eight hours over two days following a three-week trial before returning the verdict. More than $3 million is expected to go toward future medical care, according to the family’s attorneys.

Attorneys for Alliance Shippers Inc. and Dakota Lines couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

“Although this verdict cannot make him the way he used to be, it will be such a help in the care-taking he requires for the rest of his life,” Francine Cornejo said.

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