BLOG TAG: wrongful death

News & Commentary

Activist Judges Throw Out Six Million Dollar Jury Verdict Awarded to Grieving Floridian

Activist Judges Throw Out Six Million Dollar Jury Verdict Awarded to Grieving Floridian

Activist Judges Throw Out Six Million Dollar Jury Verdict Awarded to Grieving Floridian

The pain caused by the loss of a parent cannot be objectively measured.  For that reason, Florida law has long entrusted ordinary citizens to call upon their common sense and experience to determine a fair award in wrongful death actions involving a deceased parent.  Unfortunately, in R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. Odom, 41 Fla. L. Weekly D2670 (Fla. 4th DCA 2016), the 4th DCA recently rejected our state’s longstanding tradition of trusting and allowing Florida jurors to make this tough decision.

The Odom case arises out of the death of Juanita Thurston.  The class action was filed by Juanita’s daughter, Gwendolyn, against R.J. Reynolds.  After hearing all of the evidence, the jury determined that Gwendolyn should be compensated in the amount of $6,000,000 for the loss of her mother.  R.J. Reynolds balked at the number, and asked the trial court to set it aside or reduce the amount.  This argument was rejected by the trial judge, and R.J. Reynolds then sought review by the 4th District Court of Appeal.

[PDF] R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. v. Odom

In overruling the trial judge’s decision to let the jury’s verdict stand, the 4th DCA attempted to divine and apply a cold and objective standard to a uniquely human and emotional loss.  Specifically, the Court determined that adult children who are “financially or otherwise dependent” upon the deceased parent should be entitled to ask for and receive more money than those who are financially independent.  Because Gwendolyn was married and had children of her own, she did not fit this cold standard, and according to the Court’s ruling, was therefore not deserving of the jury’s award.  Remarkably, the 4th DCA came to this conclusion despite also acknowledging that “the evidence established that [Gwendolyn] and her mother had a very close and unique relationship,” and that Gwendolyn “took her mother to many of her appointments and was devastated by her decline and subsequent death.”

We believe Odom was wrongly decided with respect to the issue of wrongful death damages.  Florida law has long-recognized that non-economic damages in general, and damages for the loss of a loved one in particular, are impossible to ascertain on a purely objective basis.  That is why we trust jurors to call upon their own common sense when reviewing the evidence as to a particular individual’s loss.  Indeed, the law has long recognized that determining non-economic damages is, by its very nature, an inherently individualized inquiry that will turn on the unique facts of each case.  Remarkably, despite giving lip-service to many of these same controlling legal principles, the 4th DCA nonetheless elected to construct an objective standard and apply it to the facts of Gwendolyn’s case.  The end result of this startling break from precedent and tradition is a huge victory for big tobacco, at the expense of a grieving Floridian.

The decision did have a silver-lining, however.  R.J. Reynolds also argued that the plaintiff’s counsel had improperly called upon the jury to punish the company for its “failure to accept responsibility” for Juanita’s death.  The Court rejected this argument, explaining that “the fact that RJR failed to acknowledge its conduct was wrongful was a proper topic for discussion” during the punitive damages phase of the trial, after the jury had already determined compensatory damages.

 

NHTSA Reports Another Uptick in Traffic Fatalities: Will Advanced Technology be the Solution or Cause More Problems?

NHTSA Reports Another Uptick in Traffic Fatalities: Will Advanced Technology be the Solution or Cause More Problems?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), US traffic fatalities in the first half of 2016 (17,775) represented a 10.4% increase from those reported in the first half of 2015 (16,100).  The second quarter of 2016 was the seventh consecutive calendar quarter of increases compared to the prior year’s quarter.

What makes these statistics even more alarming is the fact that the 10.4% fatality rise in 2016’s first half far exceeded the 3.3% growth in vehicle miles during that same period.

Read more

Monster Energy Drinks Being Investigated in Connection with 5 Deaths

Monster Energy Drinks Being Investigated in Connection with 5 Deaths

Earlier this week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that it was investigating reports that five deaths were associated with the popular Monster Energy Drink. Distributed mainly by Coca-Cola, Monster is currently the most popular energy drink in America, as sales have skyrocketed in recent years with the company reporting $9 billion in revenue in 2011.

Read more

14,220 Car Seats Recalled: Harness Defect May Increase Risk of Infant Injury or Death

14,220 Car Seats Recalled: Harness Defect May Increase Risk of Infant Injury or Death

Last week, Britax Child Safety, Inc. announced the voluntary safety recall of all of their Britax Chaperone Infant Car Seats with the following model numbers and colors:

  • E9L692J (Black/Silver)
  • E9L692K (Red)
  • E9L692L (Cowmooflage)
  • E9L692M (Green)

These child restraint seats were manufactured between September 1, 2010 and April 30, 2011. 14,220 car seats are included in this recall.

Read more

Good Guys, Poseurs and Charlatans: Lawyer Websites and the Quandry for Consumers

Good Guys, Poseurs and Charlatans: Lawyer Websites and the Quandry for Consumers

Twenty years ago I was sitting in our living room one day with my grandmother.  A particularly distasteful lawyer ad came on TV.  At the time I was in law school and TV lawyer advertising was still relatively new and controversial.  I looked at my grandmother and asked, “Who in the world would ever hire THAT guy?”

“I might” she replied.

“What?!”  I was incredulous.

Read more

Toyota Lawsuit Over Death Of 4 Results in $10 million Settlement

Toyota Lawsuit Over Death Of 4 Results in $10 million Settlement

According to an MSNBC article, “Toyota Motor Corp. has agreed to pay $10 million to the family of four people killed in a runaway Lexus crash that led to recalls of millions of the automaker’s vehicles.”

MSNBC reports that Toyota refused to admit or deny legal responsibility and “fought to keep the settlement amount confidential.” However, the news source explains “the Los Angeles Times and the Associated Press argued that the public’s interest in the case outweighed confidentiality concerns,” and the sum was disclosed.

Read more

Lawsuits Allege Death As Side Effect Of Yaz, Yasmin

Lawsuits Allege Death As Side Effect Of Yaz, Yasmin

We may never be 100 percent certain just how many women have died from conditions related to the effects of Yaz, Yasmin, and Ocella. While it may prove impossible to gauge a precise figure, at least 50 out of 4,000 plaintiffs are families that have suffered the loss of their mother, sister, or daughter after having been prescribed one of Bayer’s popular birth control pills.

Read more

Botox death lawsuit filed in Indiana over death of young girl

Botox death lawsuit filed in Indiana over death of young girl

The parents of a 10-year old girl with cerebral palsy who died in 2008 have filed a lawsuit against Allergan, Inc. and the doctors who treated their daughter because they used Botox in an attempt to treat her conditions. The doctors at the Riley Hospital for Children in Indiana used the controversial cosmetic drug to appease the girl’s muscle spasms, despite the fact that Botox has never been approved for such use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Read more

Toyota recall issues lead to fourth wrongful death lawsuit

Toyota recall issues lead to fourth wrongful death lawsuit

A single-vehicle crash that occurred in 2007 has sparked the fourth wrongful death lawsuit against Toyota in conjunction with the string of recent recalls by the world’s leading automobile manufacturer. Tyrene Livingston was driving to her internship on October 26, 2007, when a defect in her car’s electronic throttle system allegedly caused the car to drive across three lanes of traffic, through a barrier and into some woods. The 21-year old college student suffered severe injuries that proved to be fatal.

Read more
x
OVER $500,000,000 recovered
Newsome Melton has recovered over half a billion dollars for their clients.
Product Liability Lawyer - Newsome Melton

    Please do not navigate away from this page until you receive a success notification.

    Product Liability Lawyer - Newsome Melton