Fatal Pickup Truck Accident Yields $1.5M Verdict

(courtesy of the Georgia Trial Reporter)

Case Caption: Reggie C. Bostick, Sr. and Jennifer G. Bostick, individually, and
Reggie C. Bostick, Sr. as Administrator of the Estate of Reggie
Cleve Bostick, Jr. v. Carl David Phelps, et al.
Case Number: 08SC2066
Verdict: $1,500,000 less setoffs for a net award of $450,000.
Breakdown: $1,250,000 (less prior payments totaling $840,000) to the surviving parents for decedent’s wrongful death and $250,000 (less prior payments totaling $210,000) to the estate.
Judge: O. Wayne Ellerbee
Date of Verdict: 1/7/2010
Attorneys: Plaintiff: Paul G. Phillips, Albany
Charles Peeler, Albany
Patrick N. Millsaps, Camilla
Defendant: Withheld

Facts:
A Florida getaway ended in tragedy when a young man was killed. The man’s family sought damages against the defendant, who reportedly ran over decedent with a large pickup truck.  The defendant denied any wrongdoing, but a Mitchell County jury found for the plaintiff and awarded $1,500,000 in damages. The jury found that the defendant’s negligence was the proximate cause of the decedent’s death. The jury declined to award punitive damages. The net award after deducting prior payments was $450,000.

Plaintiffs’ decedent, Cleve Bostick, was 22 years old. He and some friends were visiting a beach house in Mexico Beach, Florida in August 2006. The beach house was owned by the family of Defendant David Phelps, who was also at the house. On the night in question, Defendant Phelps returned to the beach house after drinking at a nearby bar. He then got into an F-150 pickup truck in the driveway, moved the vehicle to the side of the driveway and then went into the beach house. Individuals nearby said they heard screaming coming from the driveway as defendant moved the truck. When they arrived, they found decedent caught beneath the truck. Reportedly, the right front tire of the truck was against decedent’s head and had caught decedent’s shirt between the tire and pavement, pinching his neck. The individuals attempted to move the truck, but could not find the keys. Police arrived 10 to 20 minutes later and moved the truck, but decedent had died of asphyxiation. Defendant, who had no recollection of the events, was charged with and convicted of  manslaughter. He was sentenced to four years in prison. Defendant had a .293 blood alcohol content immediately after this incident. The F-150 was owned by another guest at the house.

Plaintiffs alleged that defendant was negligent and caused decedent’s death. Plaintiffs claimed decedent had suffered conscious pain and suffering as he suffocated.

Defendant contended that he did nothing wrong. There was a dispute over which insurance policy was applicable. Negligent entrustment was not a real issue as there was a reasonable belief that any of the four friends could use the pickup truck while on vacation.

Defendant Phelps had a primary insurance policy with State Farm ($1,000,000 policy limits). Cotton States was an excess carrier and Auto Owners carried two policies that insured the F-150, but timely notice was being disputed. A declaratory action over $500,000 in excess coverage was pending at the time of this trial.

Plaintiff Profile: Plaintiffs’ decedent was a 22 year old single
male who was a college student.

Alleged Injury: Death as a result of asphyxiation. Decedent was
survived by his parents and a sister.

Insurance Carrier: State Farm; Cotton States; Auto Owners


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