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Defense Verdict in Commercial UM Claim in Brevard County

Gregory J. Prusak and Toni M. Turocy | August 1, 2018

Greg J. Prusak and Toni M. Turocy, of the Orlando office, obtained a defense verdict in Brevard County in a UM claim involving a drunk driver who struck the rear of a utility truck while the Plaintiff was 45 feet in the air in a bucket lift changing a street light. KD represented the UM carrier for the Plaintiff’s employer.

The Plaintiff went on to have a lumbar fusion and two cervical fusions. Through discovery, Greg and Toni learned that the Plaintiff had been involved in a prior MVA three years earlier where he claimed the exact same injuries and exact same symptoms as he was claiming in the underlying litigation. However, Plaintiff never disclosed this prior MVA to any of his treating providers.

During the defense’s vocational rehab evaluation in December 2017, Plaintiff claimed he couldn’t lift his arms above his head, had trouble with balance and walking, couldn’t stoop, couldn’t bend, etc. Plaintiff’s counsel retained the dynamic duo of Drs. Craig Lichtblau and Bernard Pettingill, who presented a future life care plan valued at over $2 million.

The UM carrier set up remote surveillance in January 2018 upon learning that the Plaintiff had moved from WPB to Cocoa. The surveillance footage, comprised of 5 consecutive days, showed the Plaintiff on a ladder reaching over his head to take down Christmas lights, bending, stooping, and even using post hole diggers to plant two palm trees in his front yard.

They also found Facebook posts that the Plaintiff was the proud new owner of a boat. At trial, Plaintiff argued that the boat was registered in his Dad’s name, and he was just storing it for him in Florida. However, a look at Dad’s Facebook page revealed a similar post by Plaintiff’s Dad which said “delivering a beautiful boat to my son.”

Greg got Dr. Lichtblau to testify on the stand that while it was his opinion the Plaintiff, a 39-year-old man, was totally disabled and could never work again, it was perfectly fine for him to go boating and fishing. The total medical bills Plaintiff incurred were over $481,000.00.

At the conclusion of trial, Plaintiff and his wife made a $5.3 million demand to the jury. In response, the defense conceded that Plaintiff likely suffered a sprain/strain of his cervical and lumbar spine and asked the jury only to pay for the reasonable medical expenses related to that post-accident treatment (i.e., $82,000.00).

After only one hour of deliberation, the jury returned a verdict in the amount of $251,000.00. They awarded past medical expenses in the amount of $87,000.00, lost earnings in the past of $78,000.00, and future lost earnings in the amount of $86,000.00. The jury found Plaintiff did not suffer a permanent injury as a result of the subject accident and awarded no past or future non-economic damages and awarded $0 consortium damages.

The UM carrier had previously filed a PFS to both Plaintiffs for the total amount of $500,000.00, which was not accepted. Moreover, at mediation the UM carrier offered Plaintiffs $525,000.00, which was also rejected.

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