What are some of the real-life examples of wrongful death lawsuits in Florida?
Deaths are extremely hard for families involved, but they can be even more difficult when caused by someone’s carelessness. Wrongful death occurs when an individual’s death is directly caused by the wrongful act or negligence of either a person or business.
Wrongful deaths can be caused by numerous factors and situations. The following are among the most common types of wrongful death cases:
When it comes to wrongful death, car accidents are the most common cause because of both the number of drivers and how often people drive. There are over 16 million drivers in Florida, and the Sunshine State averages hundreds of car crashes per day. Those crashes lead to thousands of fatalities every year.
The vast majority of car accident fatalities are the result of at least one driver’s negligence, whether due to speeding, reckless driving, not paying attention to the road or driving under the influence. If any of these apply, the negligent driver can be liable for the deaths of anyone else involved in the accident including other drivers and passengers.
If the accident occurred due to road issues, then the city or county may be liable. There are also situations in which an accident occurred and neither driver was negligent, although these are few and far between.
Example of a car accident wrongful death lawsuit
A Broward Circuit Court jury awarded Michael DeMella $24 million after his pregnant wife was killed by a drunk driver who plowed into the poolside cabana where they were lounging at a Fort Lauderdale hotel.
On March 18, 2020, the drunk driver hopped over a curb and crashed into the cabana, killing Alanna DeMella, 26, and her unborn son, who was to be named Joshua. Michael only survived because he was in the restroom nearby and suffered minor injuries.
External source: Jury awards $24 million to widower in fatal cabana crash
The vast majority of doctors and nurses are highly skilled, but they’re still human and mistakes happen. These mistakes can occur when medical personnel cut corners, don’t follow the correct procedures or simply miss something.
When it comes to medical malpractice, the most common wrongful death causes are either misdiagnosis of a condition or failure to diagnose a condition. Errors during surgery and when treating conditions are also common causes of wrongful death in the medical field.
Example of a medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuit
In July 2015, Lilia Torres died following massive bleeding that the plaintiffs contend was caused by complications during her daughter’s birth. The family filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the team of doctors who oversaw the childbirth.
In the end, the defendants conceded negligence and causation, and the family was awarded $24.5 million by a Fort Lauderdale jury in 2019. The award was distributed among Torres’ surviving spouse and children— $3.675 million for her husband, Rodolfo Vargas Chavez; $4.9 million each to 3 of Torres’s children; and $6.125 million to Lilian Daleyza Vargas, who was born shortly before her mother’s death.
Accidents at Work
Occupations with higher risk, such as dangerous manual labor and construction jobs, have higher instances of workplace fatalities, but a wrongful death can occur at the office or even outside work if the employer puts an employee in a dangerous situation. One notable example of the latter situation is a nurse who forced to work multiple 12-hour shifts and then ended up in a fatal car accident on the way home due to exhaustion.
Example of a fatal work accident lawsuit
Pedro Jose Sanchez was working for Third Generation Plumbing in Marathon, Florida when he was killed while performing mechanical work on a trailer for his boss. Pedro’s widow, Maria Del Carmen Solis, received workers’ compensation death benefits for the loss of her husband.
The Sanchez estate then sued Third Generation Plumbing’s president, James Massaro, in state court for wrongful death. The lawsuit alleged that Mr. Massaro had improperly supervised company operations, bypassed safety features on machinery, failed to perform proper safety inspections and failed to provide sufficient training, which led to the death of Mr. Sanchez.
Before the case went before a court, Mr. Massaro settled the wrongful death action for $3.75 million.
External source: Insurer may have duty to defend in wrongful death case
If a person dies because of a defective product, the manufacturer of the product is held liable. Product liability is one reason why manufacturers spend so much time testing products and making sure they’re safe. Some of the most common examples of this type of wrongful death include defective pharmaceutical products, toxic foods, unsafe products designed for children and defective automobiles.
Example of a defective product wrongful death lawsuit
A Sarasota, FL mother filed a lawsuit against IKEA after her toddler was killed by a falling dresser she purchased from a store in Hillsborough County. IKEA settled her case for an undisclosed amount. The company previously settled similar lawsuits for $50 million.
On May 14, 2017, Meghan DeLong woke up to the sound of her 2-year-old adopted son Conner walking down the hall. She left the bedroom to let the dog out, and then went to wake up her other son Kaleb. It was her first Mother’s Day as the legal parent of Conner and Kaleb.
When she entered their room, she found their IKEA dresser had fallen forward, and young Conner was pinned underneath, not breathing. He died the following day.
At the time, Conner was the 9th child known to have died beneath a tipped IKEA dresser, and among the more than 450 children killed by a furniture, appliance, or television tip-over since 2000, data collected by the federal government shows.
DeLong is also now challenging the voluntary stability test used by the furniture industry to ensure that a dresser will not tip over when a 50-pound weight (intended to simulate the pull of a climbing child) is hung from an extended drawer. Conner weighed just 30 pounds, below the test’s threshold, when the dresser fell on him.
While still considered an automobile accident, semi-truck accidents occupy a category of their own because of a few key differences. For one, semi-trucks are so much larger than other vehicles that they are more likely to cause death in the case of an accident. The most common causes of semi-truck accidents are also different, as these accidents tend to be the result of driving with an oversized load, mechanical issues with the truck, and driver error such as aggressive driving, losing control of the truck or driving while fatigued.
Example of a truck accident wrongful death lawsuit
Hannah Krajewski, 21, and Devaughn Gresham, 23, were both tragically killed when a semi-truck slammed into them on I-95 in North Jacksonville, FL. This particular area of the interstate had been under construction for months.
Krajewski and Gresham were on their way downtown for a date night when the semi-truck rounded the curve at the Lem Turner exit on I-95 too fast, causing the driver to lose control, hit the center median and slam into the Kia Optima, dragging it across the highway and into a guardrail.
In September 2020, both families filed a wrongful death lawsuit trucking company.
Accidents involving pedestrians are more likely to cause fatalities because pedestrians don’t have any protection. Driver negligence is the most common cause of these accidents, although the city or county may be liable in situations where the driver couldn’t see the pedestrian due to a lack of visible pedestrian walkways.
Example of a pedestrian accident wrongful death lawsuit
The Rojo and De Leon family were selling flowers on Valentine’s Day in front of Jesse’s Paint & Body on South Dixie Highway in Homestead, Florida—a tradition they often did on special occasions—when their lives changed forever in a split-second.
The general manager of a car dealership down the road decided to take a souped-up Dodge Charger Hellcat for a test drive. Tragically, he lost control of the car and crashed into the flower stand, hitting and killing 3-year-old Anthony.
The toddler’s family sued the dealership for wrongful death. After 6 months of litigation, the case settled for the dealership’s insurance policy limits—$5.5 million. While no amount of money will replace little Anthony, this settlement does deliver some measure of justice and financial security to his grieving parents and family.
Aviation accidents are rare, but when they do occur, they often result in a large number of fatalities. The most common causes of aviation accidents are mechanical issues with the airplane and pilot errors. For the former, the airline or airplane manufacturer is held liable. For the latter, the pilot is at fault.
If your family has suffered a wrongful death, you don’t have to seek compensation alone. Our Tampa personal injury lawyers at Lorenzo & Lorenzo are prepared to take on your case. Contact us today for a free consultation.
Example of a plane crash wrongful death lawsuit
Retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Matthew LaCourse was piloting an F-16 fighter jet during a November 2014 training sortie when the plane crashed off of Florida’s West Coast in the Gulf of Mexico. He died in the crash.
LaCourse was a civilian employed by the Department of Defense at the time of the crash. Upon investigation, the Air Force’s Air Combat Command Accident Investigation Board ruled that the crash occurred because LaCourse became disoriented after performing a series of flight maneuvers and misjudged the position of the plane.
But LaCourse’s widow, Patricia, disagrees.
She sued PAE Aviation Technical Services, a government contractor tasked with maintaining the plane, for wrongful death and claimed that the crash was caused by a malfunction in the plane’s hydraulic system.
A Florida federal judge threw out LaCourse’s lawsuit in August 2019, but Patricia and her legal council asked an 11th Circuit panel to overturn the ruling. She continues to hold that the government contractor failed to properly maintain the aircraft, resulting in her husband’s wrongful death.
External source: Wrongful Death Case Over Military Plane Crash Lands in 11th Circuit