Firm partner Scott B. Smith represented William Wilson and the Estate of Scott Patrick Wilson following the wrongful death of Scott Patrick Wilson that occurred on February 12, 2012 in Wellington, Palm Beach County, FL. After two years of aggressive litigation by all involved parties the wrongful death case settled for $40,000,000.00 with the defendant and his insurance company. A separate confidential settlement was also reached with the bar that had sold and served alcoholic beverages to the defendant prior to the fatal crash occurring. The total settlement amount has been listed in “Top Florida Verdicts & Settlements of 2012.” The settlement amount is listed as the largest (#1) verdict and/or settlement achieved in Florida in 2012 for a wrongful death matter and is listed as the 9th largest verdict and/or settlement in Florida in 2012 for all types of cases. This is the second year in a row that Scott B. Smith has had a case listed in Top Florida Verdicts & Settlements. In 2011, Mr. Smith obtained a $2,200,000 verdict for a man and his wife after he was involved in a very serious motorcycle accident. Such verdict was listed in 2011 in Top Florida Verdicts & Settlements.
In the subject case, Mr. Smith represented the father of 23 year old Scott Patrick Wilson. The young man was wrongfully and tragically killed at the intersection of Lake Worth Road and 120th Avenue in Wellington, Palm Beach County, FL. The driver of the other vehicle, John B. Goodman, was estimated to be travelling at nearly twice the speed limit when he drove his luxury Bentley motor vehicle through a highly conspicuous stop sign and slammed such vehicle into the passenger side of Scott Wilson’s much more modest Hyundai Sonata. The extreme force of the collision pushed Scott’s car over 100 feet and ultimately forced it into a canal where Scott Wilson drowned. The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office determined that the defendant’s blood alcohol level was nearly twice above the legal limit. As a result, the defendant was arrested and charged with vehicular homicide and DUI manslaughter. A jury found of six found the defendant guilty in the criminal matter.
Scott Smith pursued the civil wrongful death case on behalf of Mr. Wilson and the Estate of Scott Patrick Wilson. Sections 768.16 – 768.26 of the Florida Statutes are referred to as the “Florida Wrongful Death Act.” Section 768.17 states “It is the public policy of the state to shift the losses resulting when wrongful death occurs from the survivors of the decedent to the wrongdoer.” In this particular matter “survivors” included Scott Wilson’s parents. Section 768.21(4) states that “Each parent of a deceased minor child may also recover for mental pain and suffering from the date of injury.” As a result, Mr. Smith pursued such wrongful death action on behalf of the father of the deceased minor child.
In addition, Mr. Smith also pursued a claim for punitive damages against the defendant for punitive damages because evidence was proffered (presented) that indicated the defendant was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crash. In Florida, a defendant may be held liable for punitive damages pursuant to section 768.72, Florida Statutes, when the trier of fact finds that defendant was personally guilty of intentional misconduct or gross negligence. According to the statute “gross negligence” means that the defendant’s conduct was so reckless or wanting in care that it constituted a conscious disregard or indifference to the life, safety, or rights of persons exposed to such conduct. The limitations placed on punitive damages in Florida do not apply to any defendant who, at the time of the act or omission for which punitive damages are sought, was under the influence of any alcoholic beverage to the extent that the defendant’s normal faculties were impaired, or who had a blood or breath alcohol level of 0.08 percent or higher. In this matter, Scott Smith pursued not only a claim for compensatory damages in the wrongful death case, but also pursued a claim for punitive damages against the defendant pursuant to sections 768.72 and 768.736, Florida Statutes, because of alcohol and/or DUI being involved.
Mr. Smith also brought a “dramshop” action against the establishment and/or bar that served the defendant alcohol beverages prior to the fatal crash. Section 768.125, Florida Statutes, otherwise known as “Florida’s Dramshop Act” states: “A person who sells or furnishes alcoholic beverages to a person of lawful drinking age shall not thereby become liable for injury or damage caused by or resulting from the intoxication of such person, except that a person who willfully and unlawfully sells or furnishes alcoholic beverages to a person who is not of lawful drinking age or who knowingly serves a person habitually addicted to the use of any or all alcoholic beverages may become liable for injury or damage caused by or resulting from the intoxication of such minor or person.” In this matter there was evidence that the establishment had served the defendant alcohol prior to the fatal accident and also evidence that the establishment knew the defendant was habitually addicted to the use of any or all alcoholic beverages by way of statements that had been taken by the investigating agency of bar personnel.
Following two years of litigation, Scott Smith was able to achieve a settlement with the defendant driver and his insurance company for $40,000,000.00 in satisfaction of the wrongful death claim and punitive damage claim. Further, Mr. Smith was able to resolve the liquor liability or dramshop claim with the establishment for a confidential amount. This settlement has been listed in Top Florida Verdicts & Settlements of 2012.
Note: Should you and/or your family suffer the loss of a loved one due to the negligence of another or caused by the defective design and/or manufacture of a product, it is very important to note that only a two (2) year statute of limitations applies to a wrongful death case in Florida. The four (4) year statute of limitations applicable to most other personal injury claims in Florida does not apply when a wrongful death occurs. Specifically, section 95.11(4)(d) indicates that “An action for wrongful death” shall be commenced within two years. As a result, the survivors of the decedent and the personal representative of the estate should not delay in seeking representation for the loss of a loved one. Failure to comply with the two (2) year statute of limitations, even if unintentional or accidental, will serve as a complete bar to the wrongful death claim for the estate and the survivors of the decedent despite Florida’s Wrongful Death Act permitting or allowing for a recovery to be made by the survivors and the estate.
You can contact Attorney Scott B. Smith, Esq. at the following:
Scott B. Smith, Esq.
Lytal, Reiter, Smith, Ivey & Fronrath
515 N. Flagler Drive, 10th Floor
West Palm Beach, FL 33410
Phone: (561) 655-1990
Fax: (561) 832-2932