Willis Law, P.A. has successfully recovered a massive settlement of approximately $1.3 million on behalf of the mother of a 16-year-old boy who drowned while a passenger in a vehicle with three other friends. The teens had attended a homecoming party at another friend’s house earlier in the evening which involved drinking and smoking marijuana. After leaving the party, the teens’ vehicle, while backing up in reverse, drove off the road, down an embankment and flipped over backwards into a nearby canal at night. Three of the four boys in the vehicle drowned.
The City had previously installed guard rails at this canal, however they were too short to stop the vehicle and did not comply with length requirements established by the Florida Department of Transportation. Attorney John A. Willis of Willis Law, P.A. filed several lawsuits on behalf of the mother of one of the deceased teens against the City, the guardrail company, the owner of the house where the party took place, and the tenant of the house.
All defendants denied liability for the incident, citing the teenage driver’s impairment as the cause of the accident. After several years of complex litigation with multiple parties, Mr. Willis settled separately with all defendants for a total settlement of approximately $1.3 million dollars.
What Laws Were Applied in This Case?
This complex case involved a wide range of different legal concepts, including products liability, dram shop liability, and government agency lawsuits.
Dram Shop Laws
Dram shop laws impose liability on drinking establishments who serve alcohol to intoxicated patrons in the event that a patron should be injured as a result of being over-served. Florida’s dram shop laws are relatively limited in scope, though they do hold establishments liable for any damages caused by serving alcohol to a minor or to a person who is habitually addicted to alcohol. In this case, Attorney Willis argued that the homeowner and tenant of the home where the party was held recklessly served alcohol to minors and were therefore liable for the damages.
In regards to the faulty guardrails, Mr. Willis filed a products liability claim against the guardrail manufacturer alleging that the low design of the rails created an unreasonably dangerous defect, unduly compromising the safety of drivers. The guardrails caused the boys harm by failing to stop the vehicle from careening over the embankment.
Suing a City or Government Entity
Personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits filed against government agencies, cities, or states can be tricky in that they are generally subject to a short statute of limitations and are protected in many situations by government immunity. In the state of Florida, the government is immune from being sued for torts stemming from “policy-making, planning or judgmental governmental functions,” though it is not immune from torts stemming from operational functions.
For example, if a city decides not to erect a stop sign at an intersection, this decision is considered a planning function and will protect the city from liability for any accidents that may occur as a result of this decision. In this case, however, the city’s decision to install guardrails that did not comply with the Florida Department of Transportation’s guidelines can be considered a negligent operational action, thereby exposing the government to liability.
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If you or a loved one have been injured in an accident, an experienced Boca Raton personal injury lawyer from Willis Law, P.A. can represent your interests in court and demand maximum compensation on your behalf. We only get paid if you do, and we will never charge you a fee unless we are successful on your behalf.