Case: Edward Carter, Debra Carter v. Vladimir Simonovski, Gary Butler

Case no: 502009CA012288XXXXMB

Description: Auto negligence

Filing date: April 8, 2009

Trial date: Nov. 7, 2012

Judge: Palm Beach Circuit Judge Catherine Brunson

Plaintiff attorneys: Joseph C. Schulz, Law Offices of Berman & Berman, Stuart and Boca Raton

Defense attorney: No representation

Jury award: $3.25 million

Details: Edward Carter, then 61, was in the street in front of his home in Lake Worth working on his truck Feb. 14, 2009. A vehicle struck Carter, knocking him under the chassis and dragging him more than 50 yards before his body yanked free. The vehicle sped away.

The vehicle was traced to Enterprise Rent-a-Car, which rented it on the credit card of Vladimir Simonovski. However, the driver was identified as Gary Butler, who had a lengthy criminal history.

Plaintiff case: Carter suffered a right femoral vein rupture and almost bled to death. He had severe fractures of the right arm, shoulder and hand. His left ankle broke in two places. There was a tear of the meniscus in the right knee, and he suffered bruised kidneys and a lower back injury.

He underwent several surgeries to reconstruct his arm, but movement remains very restricted. Carter also received injections to manage pain from herniations in the lumbar spine.

Enterprise settled, but damages were capped by law at $10,000, Schulz said. The Carters also collected $200,000 from an uninsured motorist policy they had with their insurance company, USAA.

Simonovski was dismissed as a defendant before trial because he had no direct involvement with the hit-and-run, Schulz said.

Butler was a fugitive. Schulz was watching news on television when a report of Gary Butler’s arrest caught his attention Feb. 1, 2011. Schulz ordered his process server to go to the jail and determine if it was the right Butler from Carter’s accident.

Butler shot and killed a woman at a house party in Riviera Beach 12 days before his arrest. He was located and arrested in Tallahassee by federal marshals.

Butler was not present or represented at the civil negligence trial. The judge granted a default judgment on liability. A three-hour trial ensued to set damages.

The only witnesses were Carter, his wife Debra, who was a U.S. Navy nurse, daughter Mary Carter and their pastor, the Rev. Paul Rasmus.

Outcome: The jury awarded $300,630 for past medical expenses, $600,000 for future medical expenses, $150,000 for past lost wages and $250,000 for future lost wages. He was awarded $900,000 for past pain and suffering and $600,000 future pain and suffering. Debra Carter was awarded $450,000 for loss of consortium.

Comments: “I explained to the Carters that any chance of collecting a judgment was remote. Now if the guy wins the lottery, who knows? We went to trial to give the Carters closure. Instead of just dismissing the case against him, they had their day in court,” Schulz said.

Post-settlement: On Nov. 15, Brunson entered a final judgment, adding $4,259 in taxable costs to the jury award, which is bearing interest at 4.75 percent annually.