Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

Cape Coral Wrongful death
While it’s a topic no one ever wants to think about, it is important to understand how to navigate the process of a wrongful death claim. In this post, we will be here to guide you through the phases of a wrongful death claim, ensuring your are prepared and informed should you ever be faced with this unfortunate situation.

What Qualifies as Wrongful Death?

While all familial deaths are devastating in their own right, the event of a wrongful death brings with it strong emotions due to the situation’s preventability. Whenever the loss of a loved one occurs due to wrongful death, it means their passing was caused by another individual’s or company’s negligence or outright attempt to harm.

In Jordan v. Nienhuis, the plaintiff was the personal representative of a man who died. The plaintiff filed a wrongful death action against the defendant in his capacity as a Sheriff in Hernando County. According to the complaint, the plaintiff alleged that a 911 operator was negligent in responding to a call requesting medical help.phone

The trial court concluded that the Sheriff did not owe a duty to the decedent and dismissed the case with prejudice. When an action is dismissed with prejudice, it means the plaintiff cannot refile the lawsuit. The plaintiff appealed.

In reviewing the trial court’s order granting the Sheriff’s motion to dismiss, the Florida Fifth District Court of Appeal reviewed the allegations in the complaint. The facts are as follows. According to the plaintiff, the decedent suffered a medical emergency that prevented him from breathing normally. His wife contacted 911, and the 911 operator told the wife that help was on the way. The decedent eventually stopped breathing and lost consciousness. After informing the 911 operator of this, the operator told the wife to leave him there and wait for EMS assistance, which arrived shortly thereafter. Unfortunately, the man passed away.

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medical instrumentsIt is unfortunate, but we occasionally see instances where medical negligence causes a person to suffer from severe injuries which result in death. In these cases, surviving members of the victim’s family may bring a suit for wrongful death against the healthcare professional. While the financial costs of losing a loved one are significant, it is also an emotionally devastating event. The survivors of a patient deserve compensation for their mental pain and suffering, but have previously faced difficulties getting the full amount they deserve.

In Florida medical malpractice cases, a claimant is limited in recovering noneconomic damages. Noneconomic damages are those that do not compensate an injured person for their financial losses, but instead are compensation for pain and suffering, mental anguish, and physical impairment. An injured person generally is only allowed to recover a maximum of $500,000 in noneconomic damages. However, the law allows an award of up to $1 million if a medical professional’s negligence resulted in a permanent vegetative state or death of the patient. It is significant to understand that the law caps these damages at the listed amounts, regardless of the number of claimants involved.

Until now, these Florida laws have limited the amount of recovery in wrongful death cases. However, the Florida Supreme Court recently addressed the constitutionality of Florida’s damage caps and held that the limit on wrongful death noneconomic damage violates the Equal Protection Clause of Florida’s Constitution.

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Florida_I-95_from_Lantana_Road_overpassThere are many Federal and Florida state laws in place that protect drivers from accidents that occur as the result of a defective roadway design. Florida experiences a never-ending flux of tourist traffic and some of the highest rates of roadway construction in the country. This leads to many opportunities for defective roadway crashes to occur.

It can be very difficult to establish liability in a defective roadway design case, due to the large number of statutory protections that are afforded to the government entities that are responsible for designing our public roadways and highways. A recent Arizona Supreme Court decision, however, shows Florida residents that it is not entirely impossible for a plaintiff to recover compensation when his or her injuries are the direct result of a defective roadway design.

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Zwei_zigarettenLawsuits brought against tobacco companies have been some of the most widely watched actions across the country. In a recent decision, a Florida appellate court concluded that a new trial was appropriate in an action involving a multi-million-dollar judgment against a group of tobacco companies. In RJ Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. Calloway, the defendant tobacco companies filed an appeal after the jury at the trial returned a verdict against them totaling millions of dollars.

In the underlying dispute, the plaintiffs had asserted claims for strict liability, fraudulent concealment, negligence, and conspiracy to commit fraud. The plaintiff was the personal representative of the estate of a man who died after suffering complications allegedly linked to his frequent use of cigarettes. Evidence at trial indicated that the man had started smoking cigarettes when he was 15 years old.

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white motorcycle helmetsA recent survey of accident reports prepared by police departments throughout Florida indicates that the number of fatalities in motorcycle crashes has risen nearly 25 percent in roughly a year’s time. During 2014, the number of motorcyclists killed in accidents increased from 449 to 554. Even though they only represent three percent of the total number of registered vehicles in Florida, motorcycles are involved in roughly 19 percent of the fatal collisions that occur in the state.

Another survey showed that one out of every six motorcyclists does not carry an insurance policy for their bike. This creates many problems for injured motorcyclists, especially if they are involved in a collision with one of the numerous Florida motorists who do not maintain drivers insurance. If an uninsured motorcyclist is involved in a collision with an uninsured driver, the injured motorcyclist’s options for recovery will be severely limited.

To recover compensation from a negligent driver, the injured motorcyclist must demonstrate that the defendant failed to exercise appropriate care when operating his or vehicle and that this failure was the direct cause of his or her injuries. In the devastating event that the motorcyclist loses his or her life as a result of the collision, Florida allows the decedent’s surviving heirs to bring a claim against the defendant, seeking compensation for expenses incurred as a result of the accident as well as for their pain and suffering.

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pharmacist with pillsIn the recent case of Sorenson v. Professional Compounding Pharmacists of Pennsylvania, Inc., the decedent was a resident of Ohio who suffered injuries in a car accident that resulted in long-term back pain. His physician had prescribed hydromorphone administered via pain pump, which was inserted into his spinal canal.

During a vacation to Florida, the decedent made an appointment with Charlotte Pain Management Center, to which his treating physician had referred him. One of the doctors at the Florida facility prescribed hydromorphone but increased the concentration from 10 mg/mL to 30 mg/mL. The care facility sent the prescription to the pharmacist, who compounded the medication and sent it back to the care facility. The facility then administered the medicine to the decedent through his pain pump, and he died later that day.

The executor of the decedent’s estate filed a wrongful death claim that included a medical negligence claim against the care facility. Among the allegations and causes of action, the complaint stated that the pharmacist was negligent in filling the prescription, which called for triple the amount of hydromorphone. The pharmacist filed a motion to dismiss the three causes of action based on the negligence per se doctrine, and the trial court granted the motion.

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Johnsons_Baby_Powder_1,5_OZS_talc,_pic4There are many products that we use in our daily lives, and thousands more that we have to choose from on store shelves. Recently, in the case of Fox v. Johnson & Johnson, a North Dakota jury returned a verdict in favor of a group of plaintiffs who brought a wrongful death claim against common household goods product maker Johnson & Johnson. The plaintiffs alleged that Johnson & Johnson’s talcum powder based products caused their mother to develop cancer and that the cancer ultimately took her life.

When a product results in an injury or death, the victim or the victim’s surviving family members can bring a product liability action against the manufacturer. There are three ways that plaintiffs can recover under this cause of action. First, the plaintiffs can demonstrate that the product at issue was designed in an unreasonably unsafe manner. Second, the plaintiffs can show that although the product was reasonably safe in its design, the particular unit that the victim received suffered from a defect during the manufacturing process that rendered the product unreasonably dangerous.

Finally, a plaintiff can show that a product was not reasonably safe because it failed to include proper warnings or instructions on how to use the product. Plaintiffs are not limited to choosing one of these three theories of recovery can assert all three of them where applicable.

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jetski-661641_960_720In Soto v. McCulley Marine Services, Inc., a jet skier unfortunately lost his life when he was tossed from a jet ski and sucked beneath a nearby moored vessel. The man was wearing a flotation device at the time he fell from the jet ski. Also, near the site of the accident, a dock was being utilized as a storage and preparation area for an artificial reef project maintained by the County of Manatee. The barge under which the man was trapped and a tugboat were moored to the staging area dock and participating in the project.

After the accident, the decedent’s estate brought a wrongful death action against the people who owned the barge and the tugboat. The personal representative of the man’s estate alleged that both vessels were docked negligently at the time of the accident. More specifically, the personal representative contended that the position of both boats worsened the already strong tides and caused the jet skier to be sucked underneath the barge, even though he was wearing a life preserver.

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439674317_da332396cc_zThe majority of insurance claims associated with car accidents are paid through an insurance company. Despite this, the general rule holds that an insurance company is not named as a party to the lawsuit against the driver who allegedly caused the crash. The purpose of these laws is to prevent a jury from learning that an insurance company would ultimately pay for any judgment awarded in the plaintiff’s favor, which may skew the amount of damages that the jury awards.

In GEICO General Insurance Company v. Lepine, Florida’s Second Appellate District considered whether a plaintiff could name a liability insurer as a party in a lawsuit on the basis that the insurance company had allegedly reneged on an agreement to pay the policy limits. The facts of this case are as follows. The plaintiff’s husband unfortunately lost his life in a fatal car accident.

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