Recently, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit issued an opinion in an appeal involving a negligence and vicarious liability claim by the Plaintiffs-Appellees, the estates of four women who died in a car accident, against the Defendant-Appellant, Discount Rock & Sand, Inc. Following the fatal car accident, the women’s estates sued Carlos Manso Blanco, the driver who rear-ended their car, for negligence, and the estates sued Blanco’s employer, Discount Rock & Sand, Inc., for negligently entrusting the company’s truck to Blanco and for vicarious liability for Blanco’s negligent driving. After the estates and Blanco settled, the district court ordered the estates to file a stipulation of dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a), which they did. Based on the stipulation, the district court ordered the dismissal of the claim against Blanco. The remaining claims against Discount Rock went to trial, and the jury found the company liable and awarded nearly $12 million in damages to the estates. Discount Rock then appealed the judgment.
Facts of the Case
In March 2018, four Spanish citizens vacationing in the Florida Keys were killed in an automobile accident. The four women were traveling northbound on U.S. Route 1 (the Overseas Highway) and stopped near mile marker 79 to turn left into a scenic viewing area. Two vehicles, driven by Cheyenne Del Okeyes and Eduardo Ponce, passed the women’s Nissan Rogue sport utility vehicle on the righthand shoulder. But a third vehicle—a truck outfitted with a large tank holding water and sewage and hauling a port-a-potty—slammed into the Nissan. The truck, which was owned by Discount Rock and driven by its employee, Blanco, propelled the Nissan into oncoming traffic, into the path of a recreational vehicle driven by Daniel Pinkerton. All four women died at the scene.
The women’s estates sued Blanco for negligence and Discount Rock for negligent entrustment and for vicarious liability for Blanco’s negligence. The estates sought compensatory and punitive damages. The estates and Blanco settled, while the remaining claims against Discount Rock proceeded to trial. At trial, the jury found Discount Rock liable and awarded nearly $12 million in damages to the estates.