Monday, March 11, 2019

Week 10 - Be sure you know what law you're suing under

Charles Lieupo v Simon's Trucking Inc.
2014-CA-000051 State of Florida
1D17-2065 Florida Court of Appeal

This case has been called “the poster child for everything that’s wrong with America’s lawsuit system.”  Legal experts agree it should have been thrown out of court early in the process.

In 2011, a tow truck driver in Florida was clearing wreckage from a crash when fire ants crawled up his leg and bit him.

This is the story he told at the scene and to his doctors.  But he later changed his story when he sued the towing company, claiming he was injured by battery acid.  He sued the tow company, not for negligence, but under an Environmental Protection statute that establishes strict liability [liability without fault] for the discharge for certain types of pollutants.

During the trial, a medical specialist verified that it was fire ants, not battery acid, that caused the injuries.

If you ever see this in water, DO NOT TOUCH.

But a jury still awarded the driver $5.2 million in damages.

Not surprisingly, the tow company appealed.

On April 18, 2018, the appeals court ruled that the environmental protection statute at issue here can only be used to sue for environmental contamination damages to property, not people. Floridians can still sue for personal injuries, under ordinary negligence statutes.  Plaintiff Lieupo never proved any negligence or other fault by the tow company.

Here, the jury awarded more than $5 million to the Plaintiff, but in the end, he got nothing.

Which is what he should have received much earlier in the process.

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