Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

Unfortunately, Florida is often ranked very high on the list of states with the highest number of hit-and-run accidents each year. Through August of 2022, Florida had already reported 52,791 hit-and-run car accidents throughout the state. Additionally, hit-and-run accidents resulted in 11,494 reported injuries and 119 fatalities in Florida in 2022. There are many reasons why a driver may flee the scene after an accident. The primary motivating factor is likely that the driver wants to avoid the legal or financial consequences of the accident. Depending on the cause of the crash, drugs, alcohol, outstanding warrants, texting, or distracted driving, there could be serious legal ramifications, leading to the driver leaving the scene. Other reasons, such as lacking proper insurance, holding a commercial driver’s license, or driving the vehicle without permission, could result in significant financial consequences for the driver, leading them to flee the scene.

Florida drivers and pedestrians should be aware of some of the elements involved in calculating pain and suffering damages after an accident. Such factors can be used to determine the value and compensation in court after a crash or auto accident. (1) the type of injury and seriousness of the harm, (2) the amount of recovery time required, and (3) the necessary treatment required by the injury. These issues are related to each other. For example, generally speaking, if your injury is more serious, the recovery time and treatment required will be more elaborate, and will often result in greater compensation. Subsequently, if your injury is relatively minor and there is not a ton of pain associated with it, any damages awarded may be on the lower end. A recent news article discussed a fatal Miami hit-and-run crash.

According to the news article, Miami police are investigating a fatal hit-and-run crash that occurred on the evening of Tuesday, March, 12, around 8:39 pm. According to police, the crash involved a car and a pedestrian in the area of Southwest Eighth Avenue and Eighth Street in the city’s Little Havana neighborhood. Police said officers arrived at the scene and found a man who had been struck by a car. Miami Fire Rescue personnel transported him to Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Ryder Trauma Center, where he later died. According to authorities, the victim was crossing Eighth Street, from north to south, at Eighth Court. Police said the driver would not have been cited since the victim wasn’t supposed to be crossing in that area, but the driver chose to flee the scene and will be criminally charged if found.

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.

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Industrial and equipment accidents are serious and can result in severe injuries or even death. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, from 2011 to 2017, over 600 workers were killed in forklift accidents in the United States and over 7,000 workers experienced nonfatal forklift injuries with days away from work every year. Forklift accidents only account for approximately 1% of all warehouse or factory accidents. Unfortunately, due to the dangerous nature of the equipment, forklift incidents are responsible for 11% of all physical injuries in warehouse or factory accidents.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) estimates that more stringent training policies could prevent approximately 70% of forklift accidents in the United States. OSHA also projects that in total, between 35,000 and 62,000 forklift injuries occur each year. Concerningly, it is estimated that 36% of forklift-related deaths are pedestrians. Forklifts are so dangerous in part due to how they are deployed and in part due to how they are constructed. Loads are often carried in front of a forklift, blocking the driver’s view, increasing the chances of an accident. Forklifts are often used to raise heavy loads to considerable heights, resulting in dangerous circumstances. Forklifts also turn using rear wheels, increasing the chances of tipping over during tight turns. Additionally, forklifts can weigh up to 9,000 pounds and reach speeds of 18 miles per hour, making any forklift crash a serious collision. Lastly, forklifts only have breaks on their front wheels, making it harder to stop quickly and safely. A recent news article discussed a fatal forklift accident in Daytona Beach.

According to the news report, the accident happened on Monday, February 13, when a forklift operator moving materials from a truck ran over a woman in her 60s. The worker was part of a team working to repair a building that was damaged in Hurricane Ian. The Public Safety Director, Michael Fowler, stated that the worker did not see the pedestrian past the construction materials, causing him to hit her. According to the article, the driver was navigating using the space between two loads and never saw the pedestrian before hitting her. The woman was killed by the impact. The death has been classified as an industrial incident and will be investigated by the Daytona Beach Shores Public Safety and Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

In a recent case, the Fourth District Court of Appeals in Florida issued an opinion in an appeal involving a wrongful death complaint between the Appellee, the plaintiff who is a personal representative of the decedent’s estate, and the Appellants, Cleveland Clinic Florida Health System (Cleveland Clinic). The plaintiff sued Cleveland Clinic for wrongful death after the decedent was admitted to the hospital through the emergency room, and healthcare providers performed an intubation action that caused fatal brain injuries. The trial court made a non-final order granting the appellee’s motion to amend a wrongful death medical malpractice complaint to assert a claim for punitive damages.

The decedent was admitted to the hospital through the emergency room. When his condition deteriorated, healthcare providers performed an intubation action that caused fatal brain injuries. To support their claims, the appellee relied on comments purportedly made by the hospital’s chief medical officer following the decedent’s death and arguments related to the appellants’ general failure to follow current policy procedures, make changes to their policies, and use the incident as a teaching opportunity for its interns, residents, and fellows. At trial, the court ruled that proffered evidence showed the doctors and other health care providers were grossly negligent by, contrary to the emergency room physician’s recommendation, placing the decedent on a floor level with fewer observation checks, failing to attend to the decedent during the various emergency calls, and beginning intubation without proper supervision, causing the delayed intubation that led to the decedent’s death. To support the punitive damages claim against the hospital, the trial court found a jury could conclude that the hospital’s response to the incident reflects its “condonement and ratification of the provider’s gross negligence.”

On appeal, the Cleveland Clinic argues that the trial court erred in ruling that the plaintiff made a “reasonable showing” under section 768.72 to recover punitive damages. The appellate court reverses the lower court decision for two reasons. First, the appeals court found that the proffered evidence at the hearing failed to show that the healthcare providers involved were grossly negligent. Second, neither the complaint nor the proffered evidence demonstrated how the appellants’ actions either before or during the decedent’s treatment ratified or approved the healthcare providers’ alleged negligent conduct. The appellate decision stated that “appellee’s proffered evidence provided no reasonable basis for recovery of punitive damages, which are reserved ‘to express society’s collective outrage.’” Further, the opinion states that even assuming the proffered evidence demonstrated gross negligence by the health care providers, the trial court erred in finding that a jury could reasonably conclude that the appellants ratified or condoned that negligence to subject it to punitive damages. The appeals court points out that the trial court relied on conduct that post-dated the treatment of the decedent and that such actions are not admissible on the issue of punitive damages. Subsequently, the appellate court reversed the lower court order.

In a recent case, the Fifth District Court of Appeals in Florida issued an opinion in an appeal involving a wrongful death complaint between the Appellants, the plaintiff, and the Appellee, Stetson University. The plaintiff sued Stetson for wrongful death after Nicholas Blakely died from cardiac arrest during a Stetson football team practice. The trial court found that two identical releases signed by Blakely before the 2016 and 2017 seasons in order to play football were sufficiently clear to bar claims brought against Stetson arising from the cardiac death.

Blakely was a student and scholarship football player at Stetson in 2016 and 2017, his freshman and sophomore years of college. On August 28, 2017, he removed himself from an afternoon practice, complaining of dizziness and chest tightness. The assistant athletic trainer took his pulse, gave him water, removed his helmet, and loosened his pads before sending him over to some shade. Approximately forty to forty-five minutes later, Blakely collapsed. Although Stetson staff called 911 and attempted various emergency medical procedures, Blakely died after being transported to the hospital. The record evidence shows that during an April 2017 practice, Blakely had complained of chest tightness and had mentioned to trainers that he experienced chest tightness twice in high school. There is further record evidence that on the morning of August 28, 2017, Blakely informed the head football athletic trainer that he was not feeling well, complaining of a bad cough, chest congestion, and shallow breathing. The trainer believed he had a cold and did not refer him to the student health clinic, instead allowing him to participate in practice that day without restrictions.

On appeal, the plaintiff raised two issues. First, that the language in the release was insufficient to be enforceable as a matter of law, and second that genuine issues of material fact exist concerning the scope of the release and whether Stetson’s alleged tortious conduct fell within that scope. The appellate court decision found merit in the plaintiff’s first argument, subsequently reversing the final judgment entered in favor of Stetson, and thus did not feel the need to address the second issue. The opinion stated that the combined factors surrounding the release, including the language found within, allowed the court to determine that the exculpatory clause was not clear and unambiguous and that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of Stetson.

In a recent case, the Fourth District Court of Appeals in Florida issued an opinion in an appeal involving a wrongful death complaint between Appellants, known as “the School” and Appellee, the plaintiff. The plaintiff sued the School for wrongful death after her 13-year-old son committed suicide following the School’s request that he withdraw from the school for selling a cape pen to a classmate. The School filed a motion to dismiss or compel arbitration. The appeals court reversed the lower court decision, ruling that an order denying the School’s motion to dismiss or compel arbitration is reversed.

The plaintiff’s complaint alleged that the School violated its policies and procedures as well as a common law duty to assess and provide suicide prevention and crisis support to a disciplined student. The complaint further alleged that the School was negligent for failing to conduct a full investigation and imposing a punishment that had no basis in its policies and procedures. Notably, at least twenty of the plaintiff’s allegations implicated the School’s investigation of the incident and the appropriateness of the School’s disciplinary measures.

The School moved to dismiss the complaint or, in the alternative, to compel arbitration pursuant to the enrollment contract that the plaintiff signed when the child was admitted to the school. The enrollment contract provides that “in the event of a disagreement with [the school], or if I have a legal claim against [the school], I agree to address any such disagreement or claim through the process of conflict resolution, including Christian mediation and binding arbitration as outlined in the Parent/Student Handbook.” Additionally, the handbook contained a section prohibiting vape pens and provided that possession or use of a vape pen will result in the termination of enrollment. Ultimately, the trial court denied the School’s motion, concluding that the plaintiff’s son’s death did not arise out of her child’s enrollment at the school.

When negligent or reckless driving is at play, the consequences can be severe, as is evident from a recent fatal collision that took place near Miami. A popular news site recently published information on the accident, revealing details about the driver as well as the victims of the devastating crash.

According to the article, a Florida driver was driving the wrong way on an expressway around 4:30am one recent Saturday. His Nissan Infiniti was going eastbound in the westbound lane, and he encountered a Honda sedan going the correct way on the road. Neither the Infiniti nor the sedan had an opportunity to swerve, and the cars crashed into each other head-on. There were four women and one man inside the sedan, and all five of them were killed upon impact. The driver of the Infiniti was taken to the hospital, where he is still being treated for his injuries.

Investigations revealed that the driver has not possessed a valid driver’s license for eight years, since he was arrested in 2014 for speeding. According to one report, the driver had been arrested for driving 109 miles per hour, which is significantly above any speed limit on Florida’s expressways. The driver’s license had not been reinstated; thus, he was operating his vehicle illegally when he crashed into the five victims. It is unclear whether alcohol or drugs were involved in the accident, and at the moment, no foul play is suspected.

Dealing with the preventable death of a loved one is one of life’s most challenging burdens. Under Florida’s wrongful death statute, individuals or entities who acted negligently or recklessly in causing another’s death may be liable for the damages they caused. The state’s statute allows the deceased person’s survivors a mechanism to secure compensation for the death of their family members. However, these cases require a comprehensive understanding of the state’s complex evidentiary and procedural laws. An experienced Florida wrongful death attorney can represent family members in their wrongful death claims.

A recent Florida wrongful death appeal highlights the onerous burdens that many plaintiffs encounter when pursuing these cases. The Third District Court of Appeal issued an opinion addressing the dismissal of a wrongful death complaint involving an uninsured motorist. According to the record, the uninsured motorist collided with another motorist, rendering that motorist permanently disabled. After several years of litigation, the motorist died by suicide.

As the personal representative of the motorist’s estate, the motorist’s brother brought a wrongful death lawsuit against some of the motorist’s former attorneys. According to the complaint, the brother alleged that the attorneys’ negligence and legal malpractice were the proximate cause of his brother’s death. Specifically, the plaintiff argued that the attorneys’ failure to render reasonable care and professional skill prevented him from having the ability to pay for treatment and medication and caused him to experience pain and suffering that ultimately led to his suicide.

Water sports and other outdoor recreational activities play a significant role in Florida’s economy and help make our state desirable for tourists and locals alike. Many water sports, especially the motorized type, carry risks inherent to the sport itself. Consumers seeking to participate in a sporting activity facilitated by a private company are usually required to agree to a liability waiver to disclaim the company from legal liability in the event a customer is injured or killed while participating in the activity. An Illinois woman recently died in an accident that occurred on a parasailing excursion that was organized by a Florida company.

According to the facts discussed in a local news report covering the tragedy, the woman and her two sons decided to go parasailing on Memorial Day near Pigeon Key with the company Lighthouse Parasail Inc., based out of Marathon, FL. Parasailing is an activity where one or more people are attached to a parachute, which is tethered to a boat. As the boat accelerates, the parachute fills with air, and the parasailers fly above the water, similar to a large kite being flown from a moving boat. While the mother and her two sons were parasailing, winds picked up and resulted in the cable snapping and the parasailers flying away from the boat without guidance.

Shortly after the parasailers broke free from the boat, the winds pushed them toward the Old Seven Mile Bridge, eventually smashing the three parasailers into a wall portion of the bridge. Bystanders arrived to render aid and free the parasailers from the chute and bridge cables. The mother was pronounced dead at the scene, with the two boys each suffered moderate injuries. While the crash is still under investigation, preliminary reports blame the unexpected weather.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”), motor vehicle accidents are the second leading cause of death for teenagers. Further, the Florida Department of Transportation (“FDOT”) reports that teen-related accidents dramatically increase between the “100 Deadliest Days”, the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Approximately seven teenagers die because of motor vehicle crashes every day. These harrowing statistics highlight the importance of equipping teenagers with the skills to operate their vehicles safely.

The CDC reports that the risk of motor vehicle accidents is highest among teens between 16 and 19 years old. This age group is three times more likely to be involved in a fatal accident. Data indicates that the accident death rate for male drivers is over two times higher than the fatality rate for similarly aged female motorists. Further, the presence of teenage passengers increases the likelihood of an accident.

Naturally, inexperience is one of the main reasons teenagers are more likely to be involved in a fatal Florida car accident. However, other factors that put teenagers at risk include nighttime and weekend driving, lack of seatbelt use, distracted driving, impairment, and speeding. For instance, national news reports indicated that the Sheriff’s Office charged a 17-year-old driver with vehicular homicide for driving 151 mph in a crash that took the lives of six people. The driver posted videos of himself and asked viewers to guess his speed for a prize. During his escapade, he slammed his BMW into an SUV carrying six people leaving their jobs at a local farm. Further, law enforcement believes the driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the accident.

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