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Florida Jury Awards $45 Million for Fatal Auto Accident

The grieving parents of a Domenica medical school student killed in a 2015 Pembroke Pines crash were recently awarded $45 million in damages by jurors at the conclusion of a three-week-long trial in October 2017.

Jonathan Astaphan, 29, had been driving a Mitsubishi Lancer through Section C of the I-75 express lane, an area that temporarily prevented commercial vehicles from exiting due to road work. When a tractor-trailer driver proceeded at a dangerously slow speed through all four lanes of the southbound traffic in an attempt to make a U-turn to exit Section C, Astaphan did not have time to react, and his car struck the tractor-trailer’s side. The impact tore the roof off the car, which continued underneath the tractor-trailer until it hit a concrete barrier and then came to a stop on a shoulder. Astaphan died instantly at the scene.

As is often the case in accidents involving large commercial trucks, there were multiple defendants named in the lawsuit brought by Astaphan’s parents. They included Ranger Construction Industries, who were contracted by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to improve Section C of the highway; the engineering company that helped Ranger design the project; the commercial trucking broker and its subcontractor that Ranger hired; and the tractor-trailer driver involved in the accident. The court found that it was the careless maneuver of the tractor-trailer driver that caused Astaphan’s death.

The complaint alleged negligence and vicarious liability in that Ranger and the engineering company designed the Segment C work zone without an adequate and safe system for highway-construction vehicles to enter and exit. It further alleged that Ranger knew or should have known it would be necessary for vehicles to enter and exit the section; they chose, however, to proceed with designing an improvement project without a plan for safely transporting vehicles, materials, and equipment in and out of their work zones. Emails introduced as evidence proved the company knew of the problem they had created, but chose to ignore it.

The complaint also alleged negligent hiring and selection of the tractor-trailer driver, who had already been cited for driving with a suspended license and failure to obey commercial motor vehicle rules. The complaint also alleged negligent retention of the driver, stating that the company should have investigated and determined he was unsuitable for driving a tractor-trailer on busy interstate highways.

Although no amount of monetary award can make up for the loss of a loved one, family members have the right to seek compensation when a loved one is killed in a crash caused by someone else. Frank Charles Miranda, P.A. provides skilled and compassionate representation for injury victims. Call us at 813-254-2637 or contact us online to learn how we can help.

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