Jury Enters $45 Million Verdict in South Florida Crash That Killed 29 Year Old Medical Student.
MIAMI – October 27, 2017 – After a four week trial in Broward County, Florida, it was revealed that a major highway construction company had no safe system or plan for getting heavy construction vehicles safely off of its median construction sites and onto Interstate 75. The plaintiff alleged that, after months of complaints from the motoring public, along with an official “Verbal Warning” on May 20, 2015, from the Florida Department of Transportation regarding highway construction vehicles interfering and disrupting traffic, Ranger Construction Industries, Inc., on May 28, 2015, left a fully loaded, 80,000 pound tractor trailer alone in the median of I-75, unsupervised, without any instructions on how to exit the area, at approximately 11:30 p.m., with no lighting. Ranger Construction allegedly provided the tractor trailer no safe way to exit the median construction site.
Based on e-mails uncovered by the plaintiff’s legal team, which proved that rather than acting on the complaints and official FDOT warning, and rather than looking inward to determine how to fix its system and comply with the FDOT contract rules, Ranger Construction supervisors and managers simply blamed the truck drivers and the motoring public for the problems construction vehicles were having entering and exiting the medians. Ranger Construction allegedly did nothing to fix the danger it was imposing on the roadways.
At trial, the plaintiff argued that Ranger Construction Industries, Inc. not only put lives at risk of harm and death, but also violated the terms of its contract with the Florida Department of Transportation requiring Ranger to provide construction vehicles a safe means of exiting median construction sites on I-75. Based on the circumstances, including the provisions of its contract, the plaintiff argued that the only safe way off of the I-75 median construction site that night was with a lane closure, proper supervision, lighting, and the assistance of Florida Highway Patrol. Instead, Ranger Construction and its supervisor allegedly chose to leave truck driver, Juan C. Calero, unsupervised in an area he had never been to before, in complete darkness. Ranger loaded up the flatbed tractor trailer with a full load of concrete barrier wall and instructed truck driver Calero to drive approximately one mile south, to the Miramar Parkway Bridge, for unloading.
According to the plaintiff, Mr. Calero improperly and recklessly exited the median construction work zone. Mr. Calero, facing northbound in the median, attempted to make a u-turn crossing all four southbound lanes of I-75 impeding oncoming traffic. While Mr. Calero attempted this dangerous maneuver, Raymond Astaphan’s Mitsubishi struck the tractor trailer shearing off his roof and killing him on impact. He had no time to react or avoid the tractor trailer. Raymond was a 29 year old medical student from the island of Dominica. His passenger, Patrissia Rolle, suffered significant injures. Also killed in the wreck was a 17 year old driver of another vehicle, a white BMW.
The jury found Ranger Construction Industries, Inc. in violation of its contract with the FDOT and also found Ranger Construction Industries, Inc. negligent in causing the death of Raymond Astaphan.
The verdict came after a four week trial in Broward County, Florida where the Plaintiff argued that the Defendants Ranger Construction Industries, Inc. and Juan C. Calero negligently and recklessly caused the death of Raymond Astaphan. Mr. Calero was employed by defendant Double B Lines, Inc.
The jury found the Defendants responsible and entered a $20 million verdict for compensatory damages. The jury also found punitive damages were warranted to punish the Defendants and entered a punitive damage award of $25 million against Ranger Construction Industries, Inc. and $5,000 against the truck driver Juan Calero. The jury also found that Mr. Calero was Ranger Construction Industries, Inc.’s agent and that Ranger Construction Industries, Inc. was engaged in inherently dangerous activity. The jury apportioned fault equally between the two defendants. The entire verdict was for $45,005,000.
“This case is a reminder of how powerful and important our third branch of government is for enforcing safety and protecting everyone from harm,” said Stuart Ratzan, lead trial counsel for the Plaintiff. “Through its verdict, the jury, a cross section of our community, with humility, discipline, and order understood that highway construction companies must follow the rules, not just in Broward County, but all over the country,” Ratzan said.
“The jury knew there was a just and necessary way to enforce the safety rules,” added Stuart Weissman. “The jury was careful and conscientious, entering a full, fair, and complete verdict based on the harm done. We hope this helps prevent this type of behavior from ever happening again.”
Raymond is survived by his incredible friends and family, including especially his two loving parents, Jennifer and Reginald. “They are heroes…heroes for our community and for us all,” said Ratzan and Weissman.
The Plaintiff was represented by Stuart N. Ratzan, Stuart J. Weissman, and Evan Gilead of Ratzan Law Group, P.A., Miami, Florida. Ratzan Law Group was assisted by Lincoln Connolly of Lincoln J. Connolly Trials & Appeals, P.A.
Ratzan Law Group, PA is a boutique trial practice that is dedicated to building and retaining a safe society through diligent and sophisticated advocacy. It champions its clients’ cases against powerful interests, including insurance companies, hospitals, manufacturers, doctors and corporations in order to hold wrongdoers accountable for the harm they do to others, and to help make sure it does not happen again. The firm focuses its practice on medical malpractice, product liability and commercial trials. For additional information, call (305) 374-6366 or log on to www.rwblawyers.com. Connect via Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.