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On May 7, 1997, Kathy Jenkins was driving her three children through an intersection in Riviera Beach, Fla., when an off-duty police officer broadsided their car. Jenkins’ injuries were minor, but her daughter Jasmine, 6, was killed; her son Landon, 3, sustained a spinal cord injury leaving him quadriplegic; and her son Jordan, also 3, suffered a brain injury that left him paralyzed on one side. The Jenkins family sued officer Andrew Cohan, the city of Riviera Beach, Palm Beach County and Ranger Construction Industries Inc., which on the day of the accident had moved construction barricades on the roadway. The plaintiffs claimed the county and Ranger were responsible for failing to provide a proper maintenance-of-traffic plan for the intersection, said plaintiffs’ attorney Christian D. Searcy. Cohan, who was on his way to work, was traveling between 60 and 70 miles per hour in a 40 mph zone when he hit the car, Searcy said. In a bifurcated trial, a West Palm Beach jury assigned liability at 50 percent to Ranger, 43 percent to the county and 7 percent to Cohan. In March, just before the damage portion was scheduled to begin, Ranger and the county settled for $57 million; Ranger’s insurance carriers will pay the entire settlement under an indemnification agreement with the county. The $57 million is in present value and will be used to purchase annuities paying out more than the initial amount, he said. Despite the settlement, the damages portion was tried and, on July 11, the jury awarded the Jenkins family $256 million. The officer, the only nonsettling defendant found liable, will be responsible for 7 percent, or $17.92 million. He, however, has limited assets and his employer is not on the hook for any of this judgment, Searcy said. The primary effect of the damage award, he said, was to “give a sense of justice to the parents.” The plaintiffs’ attorneys were Christian D. Searcy, Darryl Lewis, Harry Shevin and Lance Block of Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley in West Palm Beach, Fla. The defense attorneys were Roy Watson and Kathy Caste of Adams, Coogler, Watson, Merkel, Barry & Kellner; Brian Boysaw of Ryles & Boysaw; and Lonniell Olds of Olds & Stephens, all in West Palm Beach.

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