Nassau County

(24) JOHN FERRELL BURKETT and CINDY LANCASTER STEWART vs. A.M. and ALEXANDRA C. MADDOX, Individually and as Parent and Natural Guardian of A.M., a Minor (Circuit Court of Nassau County, 4th Judicial Circuit, Florida)

County/Docket #/Judge: Nassau / 2015-CA-00297 / Steven M. Fahlgren

Plaintiff(s) Attorney(s): Curry Gary Pajcic and Benjamin E. Richard of Pajcic & Pajcic, P.A., Jacksonville, FL

Defendant(s) Attorney(s): James P. Hanratty of Marshall Dennehey, et al., Jacksonville, FL, for A.M. and Alexandra C. Maddox; B. Richard Young, Joshua J. Hartley, and Jordan M. Thompson of Young, Bill, et al., Tampa, FL

Age/Sex/Occupation Of Plaintiff: John Ferrell Burkett: n/a / M / n/a; Cindy Lancaster Stewart: n/a / F / n/a

Cause Of Injury: Negligence/Motor Vehicle Collision/Operation of Vehicle With Headlights Off. On Aug. 20, 2015, plaintiffs John Ferrell Burkett and Cindy Lancaster Stewart brought suit against defendants A.M., a minor, and her mother, Abigail Christine Maddox. Plaintiffs alleged that on Dec. 10, 2014, A.M., driving a sports utility vehicle owned by Maddox, negligently caused her vehicle to collide with the one which Stewart was driving and in which Burkett was riding as a passenger. According to plaintiffs, it was about 6:45 p.m. and A.M. was driving with her headlights off on a high-speed road.

Defendants argued that Stewart was negligent in failing to yield the right of way.

Nature Of Injury: Personal injuries; lost earnings; pain and suffering.

Expert Witnesses:
Plaintiff's:
Gary Stephens, Accident Reconstruction, Macclenny, FL
Robert Spohrer, Attorneys’ Fees, Jacksonville, FL

Defendant's:
Jeptha F. Barbour, Attorneys’ Fees, Jacksonville, FL

Verdict: $3,743,744 for Plaintiffs on July 14, 2017 ($46,744 – past medical expenses for Burkett; $147,000 – future medical expenses for Burkett; $50,000 – past pain and suffering for Burkett; $205,475 – past medical expenses for Stewart; $543,797 – future medical expenses for Stewart; $3,800 – past lost wages for Stewart; $746,928 – future lost earning capacity for Stewart; $500,000 – past pain and suffering for Stewart; $1.5 million – future pain and suffering for Stewart).

Judgment: $2,907,461.38 for Plaintiffs on Oct. 26, 2017 ($2,720,469.18 – Stewart; $186,992.20 – Burkett).

Editor’s Note: After a six-day trial, the jury found A.M. to be 80% negligent and Stewart to be 20% negligent. Pursuant to post-verdict motions, GEICO General Insurance Company was joined as a defendant. Because defendants had rejected plaintiffs’ settlement offers, on Jan. 31, 2018, plaintiffs were awarded $854,165 in attorneys’ fees, $87,385.91 in costs, and $7,500 for the expert fee of Robert Spohrer, who testified for plaintiff on the issue of attorney’s fees. The court noted that the case involved many novel issues, including issues relating to whether A.M.’s lights were on, inspection issues, and testing issues, and that many attorneys might not have taken it because “[a]t first blush, plaintiff appeared to have failed to yield right of way to an oncoming vehicle.”