Wrongful Death Lawsuit Settled in Favor of Passenger Despite DUI

William E. Johnson
Tampa Bay Times
September 24, 2013

Two weeks ago, Pasco County settled a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the family of a car passenger who died when their driver missed a stop sign. Although this case in Pasco County, it is of interest because of the very extraordinary facts and counter-intuitive settlement. The passenger, Sheila Julian, was riding in Paul Suprenant’s car when he missed a stop sign and collided into a tree. Both passengers had been using cocaine; the driver had methadone and oxycodone in his system, and the passenger had meth and detectable levels of opiates in her system. Suprenant’s car collided with the tree at such a force that a gasoline fueled fire engulfed the vehicle, making it impossible to even determine whether the passenger was wearing a seatbelt.

Wrongful Death Car CrashThe Florida Highway Patrol reported that the cause of the accident was the fact that the driver was speeding. If the driver had lived, the Florida Highway patrol reported that he would have been charged with at least 7 offenses including vehicular homicide, and driving under the influence.

Incredibly, the lawsuit was settled for $2,000 in favor of Julian’s estate. Though is an extremely small settlement for a wrongful death claim, it shows the economic mindset of a rational actor who has been sued. We won’t discuss whether the claim should have been brought in the first place; nevertheless it is important to note that the decision of the county was based on the cost to settle the lawsuit. A spokesperson for the county explained that it would have cost the county exponentially more money to fight the lawsuit than to settle it. The primary reason for this is the fact that hiring defense counsel is extremely expensive for a small county like Pasco County.

However, this does not mean that any litigants without a strong case can bring a lawsuit like this and expect to get a settlement. If a case like this proceeded forward, and is found to be without merit, a court has the right to impose monetary sanctions on attorneys or parties. In extreme cases the court can require that the party with the frivolous claim pay for the legal fees of the other party.

Contact a Palm Beach County Wrongful Death Attorney

If your loved one was harmed or lost their life in an auto accident contact the Palm Beach County wrongful death attorneys of the Law Offices of William E. Johnson, P.A. Our experienced wrongful death auto accident lawyers can explain all of your legal options to obtain recovery for damages due to the negligence of others. Call 561-832-4848 to schedule a free consultation with a Palm Beach County attorney today.