A Florida family injured in a head-on collision with a man leaving his
employer's holiday party settled its personal injury lawsuit against
the man's employer for $3.9 million, the plaintiffs' lawyers said.
The collision happened around 2 a.m. on Dec. 15, 2007, when Jeffrey Francis
drove the wrong direction on Interstate 95, the plaintiffs alleged. Plaintiffs
Larry Smith, Sandra Smith and Tykinnia Smith were passengers in a minivan
Larry Smith's sister was driving when the crash occurred.
The plaintiffs' attorneys sued Francis' employer, Data Road/Zanett,
because Francis had attended the company's holiday party before the
collision. The attorneys discovered that employees of Data Road/Zanett
were in charge of monitoring other employees leaving the party to prevent
drunken driving, though there was no official such policy, said Art Menke,
a spokesman for the Langdon & Emison law firm.
During negotiations with defense attorneys, the plaintiffs argued that
Francis' employer should be held liable for the plaintiffs' injuries.
Recent Florida caselaw supported this conclusion, Menke said.
The plaintiffs' attorneys also discovered that Francis was one of the
last attendees to leave the party and his co-workers saw him drinking
throughout the night. There was no evidence about how much alcohol Francis
consumed. No co-worker asked him if he was too impaired to drive or tried
to stop him from leaving, the attorneys alleged.
Defense attorneys, based in Philadelphia and Florida, didn't return
messages seeking comment.
The Smith family's attorneys offered this explanation of the crash:
Before the collision, Francis, traveling at the speed limit of 70 mph,
nearly collided with a truck. The truck driver flashed his lights at Francis
and called 911. After that near miss, Francis swerved into an oncoming
car and kept driving, leaving the scene of that collision.
Then, Francis collided with the plaintiffs' minivan, which became airborne,
struck a guardrail and landed on its side. The Smiths suffered serious
injuries, including head trauma, brain injuries, broken bones and bruises.
Francis was less seriously injured and taken to a hospital from the crash
scene, the plaintiffs' attorneys said.
Plaintiffs' attorneys also presented a neurobehavioral assessment and
an estimate of future life care costs for each plaintiff during negotiations.