Chris Royer, Kelly Hancock, Kelley Stewart, Joe Slama and Blake Dolman of Krupnick Campbell Malone Buser Slama. (J. Albert Diaz)
A skillful deposition by a Fort Lauderdale law firm secured a settlement worth more than $6.65 million after an admission of partial fault from a driver in a personal injury case.
Attorneys from Krupnick Campbell Malone Buser Slama Hancock Liberman in Fort Lauderdale snagged the crucial admission to help settle the case for plaintiff Andrea Mirabal, a young beauty queen injured at the scene of a roadside fender bender by a third driver who pinned her between two vehicles. Mirabal, 21, was initially involved in a minor traffic collision when another driver, Christopher Petricone Jr., plowed into her as she inspected the damage from the first crash.
Her lawyers—Joe Slama, Kelly Hancock, Kelley Stewart, Chris Royer and Blake Dolman—relied on data from the black box in Petricone’s vehicle to show he didn’t brake until two seconds before impact.
“He admitted he was partly at fault,” Hancock said. “The flashers were on, but he didn’t see anything until virtually the moment of impact, until it was too late.”
Petricone’s vehicle pinned Mirabal above her knees, causing bilateral comminuted fractures of the tibia and fibula.
Mirabal underwent seven surgeries, 35 days of hospitalization and intense physical therapy, with mounting medical bills already surpassing $1 million. Her attorneys say she’ll likely require at least one knee replacement.
The former Miss FIU pageant winner was was injured in December 2015 when her Volvo station wagon bumped into a bucket truck along Southwest Eight Street in Miami. It was four days before Christmas, and she’d been shopping for presents for her nieces. Her lawyers say Mirabal put on her hazard lights, and left her car to inspect the damage with the truck driver.
While the two drivers examined their vehicles, a third motorist struck Mirabal.
Petricone’s attorneys were Laurie Adams, Melonie Bueno and Peter Murphy of Kubicki Draper in West Palm Beach. They argued comparative negligence, placing part of the blame for the accident on Mirabal for exiting her car on a busy four-lane roadway.
But Mirabal’s attorneys worked to hold Petricone accountable.
“We took into consideration all the actions of everyone there,” Dolman said. “The overwhelming act of negligence was by the defendant—driving too fast, not keeping the proper lookout and not applying the brakes until two seconds before impact.”
Mirabal brought suit April 4 against Petricone. She also sought to assign liability to his employer, Miami-based construction firm Lotspeich Co. Inc., with an argument that Petricone was traveling from a work project at FIU when he struck Mirabal and was therefore in the course and scope of his employment.
“Chris (Royer) did a good job on the deposition,” Hancock said. “It was very, very vital in getting the case resolved.”
A jury trial was initially set for November but later rescheduled to January before Miami-Dade Circuit Judge William Thomas.
But the case ended before trial on Oct. 28.
After weeks of mediation, Mirabal settled with Petricone for $300,000 and Lotspeich for $6.35 million. The Krupnick Campbell attorneys also cinched a confidential settlement with the nonparty owner of Petricone’s vehicle.
Royer and Dolman assisted Hancock and Slama, but each performed separate functions to split their efforts between liability and damages.
“We’re very proud of how quickly we resolved the case,” Slama said. “We had four attorneys with a very integrated prosecution.”
Case: Andrea Mirabal vs. Christopher John Petricone Jr. and Lotspeich Co. Inc.
Case no: 2016-008484-CA-01
Case Description: Personal injury
Filing Date: April 6, 2016
Judge: Miami-Dade Circuit Judge William Thomas
Plaintiff attorneys: Joe Slama, Kelly Hancock, Kelley Stewart, Chris Royer and Blake Dolman of Krupnick Campbell Malone Buser Slama Hancock Liberman, Fort Lauderdale
Defense attorneys: Laurie Adams, Melonie Bueno and Peter Murphy of Kubicki Draper, West Palm Beach
Settlement amount: $6.65 million plus a confidential settlement with a third-party vehicle owner
Settlement date: Oct. 28, 2016