Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

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tamiami_trail_small.gifThe Third District Court of Appeals has overturned a major vehicular manslaughter guilty plea this week of a Miami man who crashed into a carload of tourists on Tamiami Trail. Luis Lazardo was speeding down the trail, at speeds up to 83.9 miles per hour when he struck a car full of tourists from the United Kingdom, killing passenger Rachel May Coulson. The speed limit on the stretch of road this occurred was only 55. Initially, state troopers did not cite Mr. Lazardo with anything other than speeding, but once the ticket reached the desk of the prosecution, the ticket was dropped in favor of a charge of reckless driving and vehicular manslaughter.

Lazardo originally plead guilty to the charges, with an opportunity for appeal, and was sentenced to one year on house arrest and 3 years probation. While the 3rd DCA has overturned the guilty plea and the sentence, the civil suit against Mr. Lazardo remains, pursued by the families of those injured, and especially the family of Ms. Coulson. The court found that while he was being reckless, his speed of nearly 30 miles per hour over the speed limit did not amount to the “proper level of recklessness” that would require a criminal conviction on top of the civil liability faced by Mr. Lazardo. Without additional aggravating factors to the way he was driving, he can not face criminal charges for his behavior. You can read more about the accident and the case here.

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Plaintiff’s attorneys and law professors alike are abuzz with speculation on the effects of an March 2014 Florida Supreme court decision that strikes down caps on non-economic damages in medical malpractice wrongful death claims. In the 5-2 decision, the Florida Supreme Court decided that the 2003 law putting a $1 million cap on pain and suffering violated the equal protection clause of the Florida Constitution, and therefore could not stand. While the case itself focused only on the wrongful death statute and medical malpractice, the effects of the case’s decision may be used to overturn similar statutes in other states, and possibly in other areas of personal injury and negligence law.

According to several experts in the field of medical malpractice, there are a number of ways that this decision could change the way that plaintiff’s attorneys can handle cases. Not only will this mean that plaintiff’s attorneys can look for more damages for the families of victims, but it also gives plaintiff’s attorneys a new way to attack the monetary limitations. While several states have overturned caps like these using constitutional means, the Florida Supreme Court used a different strategy for overturning the cap. The court explained that the medical malpractice insurance crisis that was the premise for the 2003 law was not based in fact, and that there was no legitimate government interest in continuing to alleviate a crisis that is not factually supported.

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So what does that mean for Plaintiff’s attorneys? There are a lot of hopeful experts that believe this will mean larger payouts to victims of medical malpractice, a new look at these caps and their constitutionality, and an overall beneficial effect on the area of Plaintiff’s law. It could even challenge caps in other areas, including personal injury, using a similar strategy of attacking the idea that there is a serious crisis of available funds in the insurance business.

Read More: Washington Examiner May 19, 2014

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swingdoorelevator.jpg Michael and Brandi Helvey thought they added the perfect finishing touch to their Georgia dream home when they installed an elevator to accommodate Michael’s mother, who was living with the couple. The elevator, a National Wheel-O-Vator Destiny, cost $20,000, but it soon seemed to be an expense well worth it. However, the family’s positive feelings about the elevator abruptly changed on Christmas Eve 2010.

Brandi Helvey went upstairs to do laundry and her then three-year-old son, Jacob, attempted to follow. Jacob stood on his tiptoes and was able to open the elevator’s outer door. The outer door, also known as the swing door, proceeded to close and latch, which trapped Jacob against the inner door. When Brandi heard noises coming from downstairs, she pressed the elevator button, which caused Jacob to be dragged upwards. Jacob was then pushed back down and feet-first into the shaft. He was caught at the neck and chest. He hung in that position for ten minutes, while his mother and neighbors tried to free him. Jacob had nearly suffocated to death when first responders arrived at the home.

Jacob is now six years old and is extremely brain damaged, quadriplegic, and unable to talk. Michael and Brandi recently learned that Jacob’s injuries were not the result of a freak accident, but rather were likely linked to a swing-door elevator issue that created horrific tragedies for others as well. The elevator industry has allegedly been aware of this issue for many years, yet the fatal threat to young children continues to exist. Based on a look at news reports, since 1995 at least seven children have died in incidents involving swing-door elevators. A lawsuit brought against the Otis Elevator Company based on a young boy’s death in 2001 revealed that thirty-four children had suffered serious, life-changing injuries or had been killed between 1983 and 1993. What’s more alarming–these statistics only cover New Jersey and southern New York State.

‘Swing-door’ elevators blamed for child injuries, www.miamiherald.com December 18, 2013

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i-095_nb_exit_008a_03.jpg A driver who allegedly killed five people in a horrific drunk-driving crash on Interstate 95 in North Miami-Dade more than two years ago remains a fugitive. Despite the fact that Carlos Lacayo remains on the run, a civil jury last week awarded over $15 million in damages to one of the victim’s parents. The lawyer for that family, Edward Blumberg, stated that Lacayo “couldn’t run away from the civil justice system.” The jury deliberated for only three hours last Thursday before it reached a decision in the wrongful death case.

According to documents presented throughout the case, Lacayo was operating his mother’s gray 2010 Honda Accord on March 5, 2011, not long before 5 a.m. on Interstate 95 around Northwest 103rd Street. This is when he crashed the car into a crowd of motorists located on the shoulder of the highway. These motorists were located on the shoulder because they had just been involved in a number of minor accidents that began when one car hit a stalled vehicle located in the emergency lane. Seven cars in total were involved. According to the Florida Highway Patrol, Lacayo swerved from the express lane, smashed into the concrete barrier, and collided with the crowd of motorists.

Four people were killed instantly when Lacayo plowed through the crowd: Emerson Kastenholz, Antuan Fernandez Perez, Evidia Rodriguez, and Mirtha Queipo. A fifth victim, Ana Belkis Gomez, was transported to Jackson Memorial Hospital where she was pronounced dead five days later. Lacayo’s blood alcohol content was said to be 0.127 four hours after the crash. An arrest warrant was later issued for Lacayo, charging him with five counts of DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide. However, Lacayo had vanished by that time and remains missing.

Miami-Dade jury awards $15 million to family in quintuple-death traffic death, www.miamiherald.com December 13, 2013

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A Los Angeles jury awarded a thirteen-year-old girl $150 million in damages on Friday based on an accident that occurred on a Southern California freeway almost four years ago. The girl watched her family members burn to death in their vehicle after they hit and got stuck under a big rig truck on the shoulder of the highway. The jury found the trucking company and one of its drivers liable in the accident and ordered them to pay the $150 million judgment. The jury deliberated for three days before announcing that Rudolph Ortiz, the driver of the truck, was negligent for parking his truck on the side of the freeway while it was dark outside without leaving on any lights or reflectors to show his presence.

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Attorney Brian Brandt, the thirteen-year-old girl’s attorney, said the scope of the verdict is hard for his client to comprehend. Kylie Asam was nine at the time of the tragic accident. Her and her eleven-year-old brother, Blaine, freed themselves from the family’s crushed SUV after it got stuck under Ortiz’s truck on the side of Interstate 210. Kylie and Blaine were the only two family members to escape the vehicle. They were forced to watch their parents and older brother die in a fiery inferno.

The jury’s verdict also included $8.75 million to go to Blaine, who committed suicide before the trial began. Kylie will receive the money as her brother’s successor-in-interest, but, as Brandt explained, all of the money will be placed in a trust until Kylie turns eighteen.

LA jury awards $150M in wrongful death case, www.miamiherald.com October 29, 2013

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FB_Crash_Map_t607.jpg Authorities announced today that they believe they have found the tractor trailer and the driver involved in a fatal hit-and-run crash that occurred on Monday night. Florida Highway Patrol spokesman Sgt. Mark Wysocky said that the truck–a Peterbilt cab pulling a flatbed–was found sometime Tuesday morning in the Orlando area. Wysocky would not release the name of the company that owns the truck or the name of the driver. FHP investigators have contacted the company, which is cooperating with investigations. An investigator will likely travel to speak with the driver involved in the crash.

The tractor trailer was traveling on Florida’s Turnpike near Fort Pierce Monday evening when two people were changing a tire by the side of the road. According to Florida Highway Patrol Officials, the tractor trailer struck the two people and kept going. The cause of the crash is still not clear.

According to investigators, the accident occurred around 8 p.m. at mile marker 166 in the northbound lanes, which is fourteen miles north of the State Route 70 exit in Fort Pierce. The man and woman were properly pulled off to the road’s shoulder when the truck veered off the highway and hit them, killing them both at the scene. The man who was killed was twenty-four-year-old Lakeland resident Vincent T. Matthews and the woman killed was nineteen-year-old Davenport resident Mariah King.

FHP: Tractor trailer, driver suspected in fatal turnpike hit-and-run found in Orlando area, www.palmbeachpost.com October 8, 2013

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Texting-Double-Fatal-600x399.jpg Prosecutors in Maine have charged Kristina Lowe with two counts of manslaughter, two counts of aggravated criminal operating under the influence, and leaving the scene of an accident in connection with a crash that killed two of Lowe’s friends last year. Some have said that Lowe serves as a perfect example of the dangers of texting while driving, while Lowe’s attorney has stated that Lowe was not texting at all at the time of the accident. According to Lowe’s attorney, the prosecutors do not have a manslaughter case against Lowe because they have no proof that she was texting.

The fatal crash occurred late at night in West Paris, Maine on January 7, 2012. Lowe was eighteen at the time of the accident. Prosecutors claim that Lowe and her friends were at an underage drinking party until about midnight that evening, when Lowe, who they claim was drinking, got behind the wheel of her car and proceeded to speed and text while driving until her car flew through the air into trees. Lowe was seriously injured in the accident, two passengers were killed, and one passenger survived. The two passengers who died were Logan Dam, nineteen, and Rebecca Mason, sixteen.

Lowe was interviewed by police after the accident, while she was still in the hospital and on pain medication. Lowe told the trooper who interviewed her that she could not have been the driver because she was too intoxicated to drive and had been texting at the time of the accident. Lowe’s attorney said that Lowe made these statements because she was either trying to convince the trooper she was not the one driving that night or because she was traumatized after the incident. Cellphone records show that Lowe was not sending any text messages around the time of the incident. There was a text sent to her phone right around the time of the crash, but there is no proof that she answered the message. Debbie Sand, the mother of Logan Dam, has urged Lowe to take responsibility for her action, so that the family can move on and begin to heal.

Maine manslaughter case focuses on texting, www.palmbeachpost.com September 9, 2013

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orem utah drunk driver.jpg A twenty-two-year-old newlywed was killed early Sunday morning in Orem, Utah when an intoxicated man drove his SUV onto the sidewalk where the young woman was sitting. Ashley Zimmer was sitting on a curb in front of her home, not far from her own car, at about 1:30 a.m. Sunday. According to police Lt. Craig Martinez, that was when twenty-six-year-old Ramiro Serrano Hernandez drove his SUV up over the curb.

Police said that Hernandez lost control of his vehicle, first hitting Zimmer’s car and then Zimmer. Her body was dragged underneath the vehicle as it went through a fence and crashed into a building. Zimmer’s husband heard the crash, found his wife stuck under the vehicle, and proceeded to call police. Martinez said that Hernandez had fled when paramedics arrived on scene. Zimmer was rushed to a hospital where she was later pronounced dead. Authorities discovered Hernandez about an hour later hiding behind a trash bin blocks away from the scene.

Hernandez had been cited by police earlier on Saturday for being intoxicated and disorderly at a wedding in Lindon, Utah. A friend drove him home. After police found Hernandez, he was placed under arrest and taken to the Utah County Jail. He is facing charges of automobile homicide, having an expired driver’s license, and leaving the scene of an accident.

Orem newlywed struck, killed by car outside home, www.palmbeachpost.com August 26, 2013

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crash investigation.png Five individuals ranging in age from fourteen to twenty-two were killed early Saturday morning after the most horrific crash Palm Beach County has seen in years. A 1994 Lexus driven by twenty-two-year-old Jason A. Mahlung was driving on Blue Heron Boulevard, less than a mile from the home of one of the teenage girls in the vehicle, seventeen-year-old Shonteria T. Grimsley, when a 2008 Mercedes driven by Jabari S. Kemp, twenty-one of Florida City, crashed into the Lexus around 12:30 a.m. Saturday. Kemp was exiting Interstate 95 north, driving at an excessive speed, when he failed to stop at a red light. He slammed right into the passenger’s side of Mahlung’s vehicle, killing all five occupants.

Among the dead were Grimsley and two other girls, Christina Oliver Joseph, seventeen, and a fourteen-year-old girl, Makita Campbell. All three of the girls were from Riviera Beach. None of the girls were wearing seatbelts and were thrown from the vehicle as it tumbled after impact with the Mercedes. It was just chance that the girls were even in Mahlung’s vehicle. Mahlung and his passenger that sat in the front seat, Orane Cummings, twenty-two of Riviera Beach, were visiting Mahlung’s girlfriend, who they invited to come along for the ride, but she chose to stay behind. Another friend was supposed to join the young men, but he could not make it. This is when Mahlung picked up Joseph, Campbell, and Grimsley, who were headed to Grimsley’s house for a sleepover that night. As Mahlung drove down Blue Heron Boulevard, the Mercedes came down the exit ramp off Interstate 95 and caused the “very violent collision with a lot of energy in it.”

Mahlung was transported to St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach where he was pronounced dead. Cummings, the front seat passenger, was the only individual in the car wearing a seat belt, but he too was pronounced dead at the hospital. The section of Blue Heron Boulevard where the crash occurred was shut down for more than three hours Sunday while the Florida Highway Patrol collected evidence to understand the details and timing of the crash. FHP spokesman Tim Frith stated that once the evidence was collected and the results of toxicology reports were released, criminal charges may be filed.

Families, friends promise to ‘never forget’ victims of ‘violent’ Riviera Beach crash, www.palmbeachpost.com April 14, 2013

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brindle bulldog.jpg A seven-year-old boy was pronounced dead one week after being attacked by a neighbor’s bulldogs while riding his bicycle. The Bay County Sheriff’s Office informed local media that Tyler Jett was pronounced dead at a Pensacola hospital Sunday afternoon. The cause of death was a punctured carotid artery.

Last Tuesday, April 2, the young boy was riding his bicycle in his neighborhood after school when two dogs, one an Alapaha blood bulldog and the other a brindle bulldog, attacked him. The two bulldogs belonged to Edward Daniels Jr. Jett’s family members rushed to his aid and chased the bulldogs back to Daniels’ residence, but it was unfortunately too late, for the young boy had already suffered what turned out to be a fatal injury. Daniels faces a number of charges, including drug charges, manslaughter, and tampering with evidence.

Panhandle boy dies after attack by bulldogs, www.miamiherald.com April 08, 2013

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