Thu 20th Feb | 2020

Firm Recovers $17.3 Million in Wrongful Death, Product Defect Case on $1 Million Policy

Accidents Auto Defect Defective Tires Product liability Results Wrongful Death BY

Clark, Fountain, La Vista, Littky-Rubin & Whitman recently recovered $17.3 million in a wrongful death and product defect case. The firm represented the surviving 14-year-old son of a 41-year-old man who died in a rollover commercial truck accident due to a defective tire and a defectively redesigned and modified commercial truck. After a three-week trial in May 2018, a Palm Beach County jury awarded $15.5 million to the man’s teenage son, who lost his father – his only parent – in the accident. The verdict was the 13th highest in the state of Florida in 2018 and ranked in the “Top 20 Verdict” list.

Years before trial, the firm offered to settle the case for the $1 million policy limits and filed a formal proposal for settlement – both were ignored. After trial, the defendant argued the plaintiff’s proposal for settlement for their $1 million policy limit was not made in good faith (even though the jury awarded the plaintiff over 15 times that amount), refusing to agree that plaintiffs were entitled to their fees, and further refusing to agree to a reasonable amount of fees. The defendants’ continued intractability forced the firm to participate in an additional five-day evidentiary hearing on the attorney fee claim, following which the judge awarded an additional $3.2 million in fees.

Finding that the firm’s lawyers possessed a wealth of knowledge and extensive experience in the area of product defect litigation, the judge quantified the value of their work by awarding hourly rates between $625 and $900/hour – some of the highest in the state.

The defendant also refused to acknowledge responsibility for a reasonable amount of taxable costs, resulting in an additional two-day evidentiary hearing where Partners Donald R. Fountain and Julie H. Littky-Rubin convinced the trial judge to award $406,000 in such costs.

After five years of litigation, culminating in a three-week jury trial, seven additional days of bench trials, and more than $750,000 spent by the firm in litigating the case, the Clark Fountain team settled the case for $17.3 million just a week before the Fourth District Court of Appeal was to hear oral arguments.

Although no amount of money can heal the wounds of losing your only parent, the settlement allows some degree of closure for the surviving son.