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Florida Court of Appeals Rules for Defendants in Pedestrian Wrongful Death Case, Panzera v. O’Neal, Case No. 2D14-4302 (Fla. 2d DCA 2015)

Our Miami truck accident lawyers are all too familiar with accidents involving large semi-trucks or tractor-trailers and how these accidents have the potential to cause catastrophic losses. The sheer size of the vehicles involved means that any accident involving smaller vehicles may result in serious injuries or quite possibly, fatalities. Litigation of accidents with large trucks is highly-specialized because it requires knowing the heightened duties of care that semi-truck drivers have when they are on the road. Additionally, trucking companies also have specific responsibilities to ensure that they maintain trucks properly and that the working conditions of truck drivers do not promote dangerous driving on the road.

Recently, the Second District Court of Appeal of Florida issued a decision in a large truck accident case that unfortunately resulted in a pedestrian fatality. The case, Panzera v. O’Neal, revolves around the issue of whether there was enough evidence on the record for the trial court to issue summary judgment for the defendant truck company. In Panzera, the plaintiff is the estate of a man who was struck and killed by a tractor-trailer while trying to cross a Florida interstate highway on foot. The deceased man’s estate filed a wrongful death suit against the truck driver and the company that employed him, and the defendants asked the court to grant summary judgment in its favor. The trial court did so and granted summary judgment in the defendants’ favor.

In considering a motion for summary judgment, a trial court has to make a determination that the parties agree on all the material facts. In this determination, the court has to view all information provided by the parties in the manner that is most favorable to the party that did not ask for summary judgment. If it finds that the parties dispute a material fact of the case, then the court should not grant summary judgment.

The Second District Court of Appeals concluded that the facts here were undisputed. During the time of the accident, the deceased man climbed over a fence and entered the interstate highway where a tractor-trailer struck him. The man wore a dark shirt, and street lights were absent in the area. Additionally, the engine of the tractor-trailer had a speed limiter that limited the truck’s speed to sixty-five miles per hour – five miles per hour below the interstate’s speed limit. The tractor-trailer also used a system that creates a sudden deceleration report if the truck experiences a drop in speed that is seven miles per hour or above in less than a second. The truck generated a report that night which showed that the truck was traveling sixty-five miles per hour when it suddenly started to decelerate.

During the hearing, the truck driver testified that he saw the deceased individual when he ran across the emergency lane into his path and that the driver applied his brakes immediately and steered abruptly to try to avoid the collision. The officers who responded to the scene also testified that they observed skid marks on the road consistent with the driver’s testimony that he swerved to try to avoid hitting the pedestrian. The defense offered unrebutted testimony at the hearing that the driver could have done nothing more to prevent the collision, and that the pedestrian was the primary cause. Consequently, the Second District upheld the trial court’s decision to grant summary judgment.

If you or a family member have been the victims of a truck accident, the Miami Truck Accident Lawyers at Greenberg, Stone & Urbano offer the assistance you need to obtain the results you desire.  With over 130 collective years of experience representing personal injury clients across South Florida, our firm provides legal representation of unmatched excellence.  Contact our firm as soon as possible to start on the road to protecting your legal rights.  Our firm received an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell and was ranked as a top firm in South Florida by the Miami Herald.   Put our exceptional truck accident attorneys to work on your case.  Call us at (888) 499-9700 or (305) 595-2400 or you can visit our website to schedule your initial consultation.

 

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