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It appears that justice was served last Thursday when a Jury in Polk County, Florida returned a verdict of nearly $45 million in a wrongful death and personal injury case.

Last year, Morgan Bryant, 9, and Brittany Hooten, 8, were killed when the car they were riding in was struck practically head on by a large commercial truck. Morgan’s mother, Carla, who was two months pregnant at the time of the collision, was driving the car and was seriously injured. She suffered brain damage and the fetus she was carrying did not survive.

The original damages award of $62 million was reduced because Carla and Morgan were not wearing seatbelts at the time of the crash. The attorneys for the Bryant’s argued that the impact was of such a large magnitude that seat belts would have made no difference.

Included in the award was a $5.7 million verdict for Morgan’s wrongful death (reduced from $9.5 million because she was deemed 40% negligent). Morgan’s mom, Carla, was awarded nearly $40 million because she suffered permanent injuries and mental anguish (reduced from $52.2 million because Carla was deemed 25% negligent). Brittany Hooten’s death case was settled out of court for an undisclosed amount.

The driver of the commercial truck was insured by Progressive Auto. The trucker was not injured in the wreck.
According to an article in the Lakeland Ledger, Progressive was given several opportunities to resolve the case prior to trial including two court ordered mediations. Instead, progressive decided to roll the dice and the Jury decided to send a clear message.

This is truly a tragic and unfortunate series of events from the day of the horrific crash through Progressive’s failure to handle this claim properly. We can surely anticipate that several post trial motions and an appeal will follow. Thus, the unfortunate events will continue.

Not only is this an example of how insurers do not act in the best interest of their insureds. On the other hand, it also is an example of how our justice system is supposed to work in order to right a wrong. For the time being, it appears that justice has been served – at least, as best our system can provide.

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