AMOUNT: $450,000 (Original Offer was ZERO)
TYPE: SETTLEMENT (CONFIDENTIAL)
VENUE: LOS ANGELES COUNTY (SETTLEMENT/SPECIAL MASTER –RETIRED JUDGE APPOINTED)
COURT: SUPERIOR COURT, COUNTY OF SONOMA, SANTA ROSA, CA
CASE TYPE: MOTOR VEHICLE–TRACTOR TRAILER/ FATALITY
PLAINTIFF’S ATTORNEY: LAW OFFICES OF MICHAEL A. FIUMARA
Despite egregious facts for the two male plaintiffs who perished in their motor vehicle, plaintiff’s counsel was able to get the surviving spouses who were non-citizens living in Mexico a $450,000.00 confidential settlement from the trucking company that was based in Los Angeles.
On a very warm, July 2000 evening after working hard all day in the vineyards of Sonoma County, two brothers who were married to two sisters living in Mexico consumed eighteen cans of beer between themselves. Receipts for the purchase with the date stamp were found in the mangled wreckage.
Without evidence of food found in their stomach and with only a short lapse between the time of the beer purchase and the consummation of the alcohol and the time of the accident, there was no way to dispute the high blood alcohol level their system. It was clear that they both hoped into their vehicle and drove at a high rate of speed while they were intoxicated.
It was learned from several witnesses that the two brothers only recently had purchased the vehicle for cash from an unsavory character who had poorly maintained the vehicle. The driver sped onto the back roads of Sonoma County north of Windsor at speeds of between 75 and 85 mph before their vehicle collided into the side of a truck/tractor trailer unloading wine at one of the local businesses. The time of the accident was approximately 1:30 a.m. and it couldn’t be determined whether the vehicle the brothers were driving in had headlights that were working!
Testing of the headlights/lamps pointed to at least one of them not functioning at the time of the crash. However, the impact of the accident was so great it was difficult for the expert to definitively conclude that the one headlight was operational at all. Another bad factor was that both men were not wearing their seatbelts at the time of the impact, but even if they had, it was argued that they probably would not have lived any way.
The driver of the tractor trailer whose truck was partially across the road, although unharmed was badly shaken. One of the brother plaintiffs died instantly at the scene and the other succumbed to his injuries at a local hospital within an hour of the collision.
At first, all of the factors and circumstances were completely against the plaintiffs. The family was unable to find an attorney who would take the case because the facts did not support that the brothers acted legally or carefully. The following factors pointed to the two brothers acting negligently:
Both men were highly intoxicated with BAC’s over .22.
- The driver was determined to have driven recklessly at speeds of more than 30 mph in excess of the posted speed limit.
- Apparently, at least one headlight was nonfunctioning and possibly both were not on at the time of the impact; in addition the car the brothers were driving was poorly maintained and in poor condition.
- Both the driver and passenger were not wearing their seatbelts.
The case was won only because counsel was tenacious and insisted that the Department of Transportation and OSHA test the truck driver’s blood and release those results before trial. It turned out that the truck driver had a small amount of methamphetamine in his system and this was the impetus to settle the case but for far less than it should have been settled for because of the bad FACTS and because the lives of the remaining or surviving spouses and family member living in Mexico were giving a lower value because they lived in a much poorer country with a devaluated peso and the surviving spouses and family members were NOT American citizens.
I am most proud of this case because NO OTHER ATTORNEY was willing to take on a VERY difficult case like this.
Fiumara & Milligan Law, PC likes a challenge.
If there is any solace to this case, the $450,000 in the poor area of Mexico that the surviving spouse and family members lived told us that this money is worth 10X its US value or approximately, $4,500,000.