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CASE: Larose McLoyd vs. Barbara Dworak and National Indemnity Company of the south

Our client, Larose McLoyd, was a 23 year old wife and mother, who pulled out from a stop sign one afternoon in Jacksonville, and was t-boned on the right side by a Police Athletic League bus, killing her husband, her step daughter, and her baby daughter. She had back injuries, and was knocked unconscious, and had no independent memory of the crash. The FHP homicide investigator said that our client was the “at fault” vehicle, and she was cited for violating the right of way.

The insurer of PAL was National Indemnity Company of the South, a Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary. Immediately they hired a local defense lawyer in Jacksonville.

National Indemnity Company of the South immediately conducted an investigation, including hiring an independent accident reconstruction expert, videotaping the intersection, and taking statements of witnesses, including the children on the PAL bus. PAL made attemps to contact our client, and they contacted our client’s own insurer, Allstate to tag along at a “meet and greet” meeting with our client and her Mom just 19 days after the accident.

During that meeting, and a second meeting, 2 weeks later, they convinced our client to settle claims that she didnt’t even know she had at the time. They induced her to settle the wrongful death claims for her husband and for her baby daughter for approximately $351,000 out of the $1 million dollar policy.

During the second meeting, our client’s Mom, asked the Claims Supervisor and the attorney if her daughter needed to hire a lawyer, but they had already retained a local Jacksonville general practitioner attorney, and had probate forms ready, so they informed our client and her Mom that they had already hired a lawyer for her, and that they would pay the lawyer’s fees. Just before the 90 days for probate ran, the lawyer for National Indemnity called the lawyer hired to probate the estates, and asked her to get our client to sign an “Affidavit of Waiver of Advice of Counsel” form. (Not find that form in the standard probate forms…)

Approximately 2 years later, our client was informed that the PAL driver had been speeding, and that he tested positive for drugs in his system. Our client then sought our advise.

In our pre-suit investigation we learned that the PAL driver was speeding, doing at least 47 mph in a 30 mile zone, and he had been cited for excessive speed. The bus driver also had to take a urin test, and he tested positive in the DOT screen for marijuana and cocaine. We also learned that there was foliage at the intersection that blocked view of both our client as well as the PAL bus driver.

Florida statutes mandate that insurers and their adjusters comply with the adjuster’s code of ethics, which specifly precluded them from negotiating and settling with our client while she was in such distress from her loss.

We sued the cliams supervisor and the insurance company for one count, common law fraud. We litigated the case for 6 years both circuit and appellate courts. Much of the time was spent litigating the crime fraud exception, and spoliation of evidence issues.

In the discovery process, we were able to obtain several crucial pieces of documentation from the insurer’s and attorney’s file. Including a letter from the attorney to the regional claims supervisor, informing her that the accident reconstruction expert had determined that the accident wouldn’t have occurred at all, if the driver had been going speed limit, and suggesting a “checkbook defense” to, prevent our client from contacting an attorney.

We worked with terrific co-counsel, David Dunlap, as well as our great appellate counsel, Philip Burlington. The case was tried before a Jacksonville jury over a 3 week period in November 2007, and the Jury rendered a verdict finding that the defendants committed fraud, and awarding $3 million to our client.

The case is presently on appeal