Florida Appellate Court Upholds Motion for Summary Judgment in Pedestrian Wrongful Death Case

In the recent case of Panzera v. O’Neal, a man was killed in a fatal accident when he was struck by a large semi-truck on an interstate in 2011. The man had been trying to cross the interstate on foot. After the accident, the victim’s family brought a lawsuit claiming that the truck driver acted negligently in hitting the man. The plaintiffs also filed a lawsuit against the supermarket chain that employed the driver. In response, the truck driver and the supermarket chain filed a motion for summary judgment.

During the hearing on the motion for summary judgment, evidence was offered indicating that the victim had climbed over a chainlink fence to cross the dark highway immediately before he was killed. Evidence also showed that the man was wearing dark attire and that the accident occurred in the middle of the night, at roughly 3 a.m. During his testimony, the driver stated that he slammed on his brakes and tried to swerve away from the victim immediately before making the impact. Police officers testified to seeing long skid marks on the highway at the time they responded to the accident, corroborating the truck driver’s testimony that he attempted to avoid hitting the victim.

Evidence was also offered showing that the truck the defendant driver was operating had been equipped with a computer mechanism that limited the truck’s maximum speed to five miles under the speed limit. According to the computer records maintained for the truck, the vehicle decelerated immediately before it collided with the victim.

Despite this evidence, the plaintiffs failed to provide testimony from an expert or another form of evidence to refute the police officer’s testimony and the computer evidence showing the truck driver attempted to avoid hitting the victim. Instead, the plaintiffs only provided evidence alleging that the truck driver could have avoided hitting the victim. As a result, the district court granted the defendants’ motion for summary judgment.

On appeal to the Second District, the appellate court agreed with the lower court’s conclusion that the plaintiffs failed to support their contention that the truck driver could have avoided hitting the victim. The appellate court also concluded that, based on the evidence in the record, the victim’s actions were the proximate cause of the collision and that the driver was not the proximate cause. Accordingly, the appellate court upheld the lower court’s grant of summary judgment and corresponding dismissal of the action.

If you or someone you love has suffered injuries in a car accident or truck accident, you may be entitled to compensation. At Lusk, Drasites & Tolisano, our dedicated, aggressive, and diligent personal injury lawyers have helped accident victims throughout Southwest Florida, including in Fort Myers, Naples, and Cape Coral. We understand just how traumatic and devastating this time can be for you and your family, especially if it results in the loss of a loved one. We will guide you through each step of the litigation and ensure that your needs are addressed along the way. Call us now at 1-800-283-7442 or contact us online to set up your free consultation.

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