Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

Recently, the Supreme Court of Florida issued a written opinion in a case rejecting a lower court’s decision to impose what appeared to be a bright-line rule regarding the available amount of damages a Florida wrongful death plaintiff is able to obtain. In so doing, the state’s high court held that the lower court failed to give the proper deference to the jury’s verdict as well as the trial court’s decision not to grant the defendant’s post-verdict motion to reduce the amount of damages awarded by the jury.

The Case

The case was brought by a woman whose mother died from lung cancer and was filed against a cigarette manufacturer. The jury determined that the plaintiff’s mother was addicted to cigarettes and that this addiction was the legal cause of her death. The jury heard evidence that the plaintiff was very close with her mother, and returned an award in favor of the plaintiff in the amount of $4.5 million.

In a post-trial motion, the defendant claimed that the damages awarded by the jury were excessive, and requested that the trial judge either reduce the damages to a reasonable amount or grant a new trial. The court denied the defendant’s motion after considering the evidence in this case and looking at jury verdicts in similar cases, noting that “nothing in the record … suggest[s] that the verdict was the product of passion and prejudice.” The defendant appealed.

Continue reading →

Earlier this month, a pedestrian bridge at Florida International University collapsed, killing six and injuring nine others. While the cause of the collapse is still under official investigation, there were reports that one of the lead engineers noticed cracks in the bridge before it was even complete and reported the cracks to administration. However, nothing was done.According to one news report, one of the several people who were injured in the bridge collapse has recently filed a Florida personal injury lawsuit against several of the parties involved in the construction of the bridge, including the firm that designed it and the construction company charged with installing the bridge. Evidently, the recently filed case was brought by a man who was riding his bike near the bridge when it collapsed.

The lawsuit claims that as the bridge collapsed, a motorist swerved to avoid either the falling bridge or another motorist and struck the man while he was on his bicycle. As a result of the collision, the man sustained serious injuries.

Continue reading →

When someone is killed due to the negligence of another party, the survivors of the deceased may be entitled to financial compensation for their loss through a Florida wrongful death lawsuit. In order to succeed in a wrongful death lawsuit, a plaintiff must establish that their loved one’s death was a result of a negligent act or omission of the defendant.One issue that frequently comes up in wrongful death lawsuits, especially those arising in the context of nursing home abuse or neglect, is whether an arbitration agreement between the deceased and the defendant can be enforced against a survivor of the deceased when they file a wrongful death lawsuit. The short answer, in Florida, is “yes.”

A recent case in another state clearly illustrates the issue of derivativeness and its importance.

Continue reading →

Establishing the breach of a duty is one of the most contested issues in South Florida premises liability lawsuits. Essentially, in order to establish this element, a plaintiff must point to some negligent act or omission of the defendant that violated a duty owed to the plaintiff.Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a personal injury lawsuit filed by the father of a young boy who drowned while swimming in a pool at a condominium complex. The appellate court was tasked with determining if the trial court was proper to grant the defendant’s motion for summary judgment based on the plaintiff’s failure to establish that the defendant was negligent. After reviewing each of the plaintiff’s claims, the court determined that the condo association was not negligent in any way and affirmed the lower court’s ruling.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff’s son was swimming in a pool that was located inside a condominium complex operated by the defendant condo association. The boy was accompanied by several family members, none of whom lived in the condo complex. While the boy’s aunt did live in the complex, she was not present while the group was using the pool.

Continue reading →

Assumption of the risk is a common defense used by many defendants in Florida personal injury cases. When it applies, the doctrine prevents a plaintiff from pursuing a claim against a defendant if the plaintiff was engaging in a dangerous activity for which the risks were known. For example, a football player may be prevented from suing another player based on injuries received on the field because the injured player likely knew the risks involved with playing football but continued to play nonetheless.In Florida, strict assumption of the risk is very limited. In fact, pursuant to a recent case decided earlier this year, the doctrine only applies when there is an express contract not to sue or in the context of contact sports. That being said, the doctrine of assumption of the risk can still work against a Florida personal injury plaintiff because a jury can take a plaintiff’s assumption of the risks involved in an activity into account when determining the relative fault of each party.

A recent case illustrates how courts apply the assumption of the risk doctrine. While Florida’s law is different from that applied in the case, the case is still instructive to Florida personal injury plaintiffs because the division of fault between the plaintiff and the defendant is an issue for the jury to determine.

Continue reading →

After a 38-year-old man was shot and killed, his mother and his five-year-old son filed survival and wrongful death claims against the shooter. The man was killed in August 2009, and on June 9, 2015, the man’s mother and the man’s then five-year-old son filed a complaint against the shooter. They alleged wrongful death based on negligence, a survival action based on negligence, wrongful death based on gross negligence, a survival action based on gross negligence, wrongful death based on battery, a survival action based on battery, and fraudulent conveyance.The defendant moved to dismiss the case, and the court granted the motion to dismiss as to the wrongful death claims because the court said they were filed too late. The plaintiff appealed the decision, and in a recent decision, a state court of appeals reinstated the claims.

Under that state’s laws, a wrongful death claim had to be filed within three years of the date of death. However, the state provided exceptions under certain circumstances. One statute provided that a wrongful death claim filed by a minor plaintiff was tolled during the period of minority. Another statute stated that if a plaintiff did not know about a claim due to an adverse party’s fraud, the time period for the claim began to run when the party discovered or should have discovered the fraud through ordinary diligence.

Continue reading →

Earlier this month, a Georgia jury awarded a woman $15 million in financial compensation for the injuries she received in an April 2015 truck accident. According to a news report covering the recent verdict, the case proceeded to trial after the accident victim and the trucking company were unable to reach a mutually acceptable result in pre-trial negotiations.The accident giving rise to the case occurred on a Georgia highway. A car full of six Louisiana nursing students was on their way to their final day of clinical training in a Savannah hospital. Along their way, a traffic jam formed, requiring they come to a complete stop on the highway. After a few seconds of being stopped on the highway, a semi-truck came from behind, ramming into the rear of the students’ vehicle. The truck was traveling at approximately 70 miles per hour. Five of the six students in the car were killed.

A subsequent investigation discovered that the truck driver did not apply the brakes at all in the moments leading up to the accident. The driver later pleaded guilty to five counts of first-degree vehicular manslaughter and received a sentence of five years’ incarceration followed by five years’ probation. The families of the deceased students filed wrongful death cases against the truck driver’s employer. These lawsuits were settled out of court for undisclosed amounts. However, the lone survivor in the car was unable to reach an agreement with the trucking company, which initially only offered to pay her medical expenses.

Continue reading →

A state appellate court recently published an opinion that allowed a plaintiff’s wrongful death case to proceed. Based on this latest ruling by the highest state court and its ultimate authority over questions of state law, the plaintiff may yet receive compensation for his negligence claim.The plaintiff in the case of Hain v. Jamison is the husband of a woman who was struck and killed by one of the defendants in a roadside accident that occurred one evening when the decedent exited her car on a rural road to assist a day-old calf owned by another of the defendants that had escaped its enclosure and was walking on the roadway. The plaintiff sued the other driver for negligence, as well as the owner of the farm that allowed the calf to escape.

The farm denied legal responsibility for the woman’s death, arguing that the negligent acts of the other driver and the decedent herself were intervening causes that prevented the farm from being liable for the death, even if a jury did find that the farm had negligently allowed the calf to escape.

Continue reading →

The Eighth Circuit United States Court of Appeals recently released an opinion affirming a jury verdict in favor of a defendant after a trial was held on the plaintiffs’ allegations surrounding the death of their 23-month-old son. The boy drowned in a pond after he climbed from his crib in the middle of the night and left his home, getting past a doorknob cover that was intended to keep the child from using the door. On appeal, the plaintiffs argued that the district court was mistaken in permitting testimony that the boy’s mother failed to secure a secondary chain lock on the door on the night of the boy’s death.

The Tragic Drowning of the Plaintiffs’ Child

The plaintiffs in the case of Coterel v. Dorel Juvenile Group were the parents of a boy who died after he wandered from the family home in the middle of the night and drowned in a nearby pond. The boy’s parents awoke in the morning to find the front door to their home ajar and the boy missing from his crib. Minutes later, the boy’s father found him floating unresponsive in the pond, approximately 50 yards from the home. The defendant in the case was the manufacturer of a doorknob cover that the couple had received as a gift and had been using to keep the child from operating the front door. After the boy’s death, the plaintiffs filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the manufacturer, alleging that the doorbell cover was a dangerous product that failed to work as intended and that it was negligently manufactured and marketed by the defendant.

The Jury Found the Defendant Was Not at Fault at Trial

The plaintiffs’ product liability and negligence claims went to trial, and the jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant. During trial, evidence was introduced over the plaintiffs’ objection that the parents had previously witnessed their son defeating the doorknob cover, and they installed a chain lock on the front door after noticing this. The defendant argued at trial that the plaintiffs knew the doorknob cover wouldn’t keep the child from leaving the home, and they were negligent by failing to use the additional lock. The jury was not required to explain their decision on the verdict form and indicated only that the defendant should not be liable for the boy’s death.

Continue reading →

The Supreme Court of Oklahoma recently released a decision granting a plaintiff’s request to prevent the enforcement of an order issued by the judge presiding over a wrongful death case. The initial order had denied the plaintiff’s request to amend their complaint and add additional defendants of whom the plaintiff was initially unaware. Although the state supreme court denied the plaintiff’s request to immediately force the trial judge to grant their motion to amend the complaint, the most recent ruling will result in further proceedings at the district court level to determine if the plaintiff is entitled to hold the additional parties responsible in the wrongful death case.

The Plaintiff’s Claim of Nursing Home Neglect and Wrongful Death

The plaintiff in the case of Maree v. Willow Park Health Care Center is the personal representative of the estate of a woman who died while she was a patient at a long-term nursing facility operated by the defendants. According to the facts discussed in the appellate opinion, the lawsuit alleges that the defendant negligently failed to respond to an assistance call made by the patient, resulting in her suffering injuries in a fall while she attempted to use the bathroom unassisted. The plaintiff’s claim further alleges that the defendants failed to adequately respond after the patient was injured, ultimately resulting in her death two days later. Based on the alleged negligence of the nursing home operators, the plaintiff filed a wrongful death lawsuit seeking damages from the defendant.

The Plaintiff’s Attempt to Pierce the Corporate Veil is Denied

After filing the wrongful death claim, the plaintiff became aware of additional parties who acted as owners/managers of the defendant nursing home corporation and sought to add them as defendants to the case. Although corporate owners and members cannot generally be held personally accountable for negligence committed by the corporation, the plaintiff argued that case discovery would find evidence that the additional defendants were personally involved in the daily operations of the nursing home and could be held personally accountable for their role in the patient’s death. After hearing argument on the plaintiff’s motion, the trial court ruled that the proposed defendants could not be added and denied the plaintiff’s request to conduct additional discovery on the defendants. The plaintiff appealed the ruling to the state supreme court and sought an order blocking the enforcement of the trial court’s order.

Continue reading →

Contact Information