In an earlier post this year we looked at the broad outlines of wrongful death claims in Florida. It’s not a pleasant topic. However, we all have to face the fact that traffic accident injuries are sometimes fatal. Those victims obviously can’t make claims for damages. The plaintiffs in wrongful death cases are, rather, the estates of these deceased. A person named as the estate’s personal representative carries the claim forward. The crash we’ll discuss today resulted in a Florida wrongful death trial. The jury awarded damages of $5 million. The trial illustrates some key features of wrongful death verdicts in Florida.
MOTORCYCLE COLLIDES WITH MINIVAN
The case concerned the tragic death of Sean Parke, 17, in a motorcycle accident in Fort Myers. Sean was riding his motorcycle in the westbound lanes of a thoroughfare in a residential area. Evelyn Miozza was driving a minivan on the eastbound roadway. Miozza began a left turn at an intersection, crossing the westbound lanes. Parke, on his motorcycle, hit the passenger side of Miozza’s minivan. He died at the scene.
PARK V. MIOZZA, ET AL
Sean Parke’s father, Edward, acting as his son’s estate’s personal representative, filed a wrongful death suit against Evelyn Miozza and her husband, Michael. Michael Miozza was the owner of the minivan. This is an example of an important concept in negligence law. It’s called vicarious liability. In some cases, vicarious liability can expand the reach of a plaintiff’s claim. In this case, though, it turned out that Michael had passed away some years earlier. He was removed as a defendant before the trial.
The case went to arbitration. Damages were awarded to Sean Parke’s estate. The defense legal team then asked for a trial.
The Parke attorneys argued that Evelyn Miozza had been negligent in operating her minivan. They had accident reconstruction expert witness testimony that she had tried to speed up through her left turn. The expert testimony was that the minivan’s “black box” showed she had done this. Miozza, plaintiff’s attorneys said, should have yielded the right of way to Sean Parke. She should have braked at the intersection, allowing the oncoming Sean to pass. Moreover, the Parke lawyers produced evidence that Evelyn Miozza had serious vision problems. Nearsightedness and cataracts, that is. Her doctor had diagnosed the cataracts in 2013. Miozza didn’t follow up. She had them removed only after the fatal accident.
The gist of the defense case was that the accident was Sean Parke’s fault. They asserted that Sean, in fact, had been speeding. The defense offered as evidence witness testimony, and expert witness testimony as well. Defense’s experts concluded that Sean was riding at between 66mph and 80mph. In a 45mph zone. Hence, the defense claimed, if Sean had been obeying the speed limit, the collision would never have happened. Miozza would have safely completed her left turn before Sean Parke reached the intersection.
Edward Parke, the bereaved father, claimed he’d suffered severe mental anguish since losing his son in the accident. Sean’s estate, the plaintiff, asked for damages to compensate for Edward’s pain and suffering, past and future.
The defense, in contrast, argued that Edward’s discontinuation of counseling and his remarriage showed he’d gotten over losing his son a just a year later.
WRONGFUL DEATH VERDICTS AND AWARDS
This jury verdict and award of damages illustrate the way Florida’s comparative fault liability laws work. They found Evelyn Miozza 85% liable for the accident. Sean Parke, 15%. The jurors valued the Sean Parke estate’s damages at $5 million. However, since they judged Sean 15% at fault, this reduced the actual award to $4,250,000,
WRONGFUL DEATH VERDICTS IN FLORIDA
This case is an example of the potential scale of damages Florida juries award in some wrongful death verdicts. It also shows that a victim of negligence is entitled to compensation even if he or she is partly responsible for the death. And, indeed, it shows how emotionally fraught these cases can be. Imagine yourself in court hearing that you’ve gotten over the death of a loved one and moved on. Finally, the complexity of accident reconstruction and expert witness testimony played a key role.
These are, in brief, the reasons why Boca Raton area residents who lose a loved one to an accident need help. The help only an experienced Boca Raton accident attorney can provide. Silver & Silver, PA, has a long and stellar track record in Palm Beach County and South Florida. The initial consultation is always free. We don’t charge legal fees unless we recover money damages for the client.