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ARTICLE ID 27563

$________ GROSS - FAILURE TO STOP AT STOP SIGN- INTERSECTION COLLISION - THIRD VEHICLE STRIKES CARS DISABLED FROM FIRST ACCIDENT - TWO PEDESTRIANS STRUCK BY VEHICLES AT SCENE - TRAUMATIC LEG AMPUTATION - SEVERE DAMAGE TO BOTH LEGS OF SECOND PLAINTIFF.

Okeechobee County

This action was brought by two brothers, ages 35 and 33, after they were injured while offering assistance at the scene of an accident. The defendants included Jeffrey and Lawrence Hoppock, the driver and owner of the first vehicle; J&P Enterprises d/b/a Domino’s Pizza for whom Hoppock was delivering pizza at the time of the accident; Domino’s Pizza, Inc., the pizza franchisor; and the driver of the second vehicle which collided with the two disabled vehicles. The plaintiff contended that defendant franchisor was vicariously liable for the negligent acts of the employee of the local franchise. The defendant driver of the second vehicle argued that he could not see the disabled vehicles because a parked car had left its headlights facing oncoming traffic. The defense also alleged that the plaintiffs were comparatively negligent in causing their injuries by walking on the highway at night and placing themselves in danger.

Evidence showed that the defendant Jeffrey Hoppock was employed by J & P Enterprises, d/b/a Domino’s Pizza, a Domino’s Pizza franchise located in Okeechobee. Hoppock was driving his father’s car and was returning from a pizza delivery at approximately 10:00 p.m. on June 26, ________, when he allegedly failed to stop at a stop sign and struck a car driven on State Road 98 by Robin Raulerson (not a party in the case). Both vehicles were disabled by the collision. The plaintiffs Ricky Parker and Ralph Parker were attending a revival at the Okeechobee Civic Center near the scene of the accident. After hearing the first accident, the plaintiffs were led by their Reverend to the accident scene and were directed to watch for traffic while the Reverend assisted the occupants of the vehicles.

The plaintiff Ralph Parker testified that he decided to leave the scene and was walking northbound in the northbound lane of travel. Several vehicles stopped to render assistance, including a vehicle which stopped on the western edge of the roadway with its headlights facing south or southwest, according to testimony p 7 3 offered. Two to five minutes after the first accident, the second defendant driver, Earl Hart, who was driving northbound on State Road 98, struck the Raulerson vehicle, pushing it into the Hoppock vehicle. The plaintiff Ralph Parker was pinned and then rolled under the Hart vehicle. The plaintiff Ricky Parker was discovered screaming in the roadway, his left leg traumatically amputated.

The plaintiff’s medical experts testified that the plaintiff Ralph Parker sustained extensive damage to both legs and pelvis, including open fractures of the right tibia and fibula as well as an open fracture of the right femur, fracture of the left femur and loss of substantial soft tissue of the right leg. Ralph Parker also sustained sciatic nerve damage causing foot drop and muscle wasting and atrophy, according to his expert. This plaintiff underwent several surgeries and multiple debridements, installation of several external fixators, rod and nail insertion and suffered complications from infection. His past medical expenses were $________ and he claimed past lost wages of $________.

He also alleged future medical expenses and loss of earnings of $________ from his employment as a laborer.

The plaintiff Ricky Parker suffered a traumatic left leg amputation above the knee, comminuted compound fracture of the right tibia and fibula and right femur fracture requiring three hospitalizations, installation of pins and external fixator, bone graft and skin grafts. His past medical expenses totaled $________. He also claimed past lost wages of $________ and future medical expenses and lost earnings of $________ from his job as a laborer.

The defendant driver of the second vehicle, Earl Hart, testified that he was blinded by the headlights of the vehicle that had stopped and left its headlights pointed southbound. He also claimed that he was not able to see the disabled vehicles despite the presence of a street light. The franchisor argued that it did not have the right to control the day-to-day activities of the franchise and that the operational guidelines established for the franchise were an acceptable means of doing business. This defendant contended that the franchisee was an independent contractor for which the franchisor could not be held liable.

As to the plaintiff Ricky Parker, the jury found the first defendant driver, Hoppock, 10% negligent; the second defendant driver, Hart, 70% negligent and the plaintiff 20% comparatively negligent. Ricky Parker was awarded $________ which was reduced accordingly. As to the plaintiff Ralph Parker, the jury found the first defendant driver, Hoppock, 10% negligent; the second defendant driver, Hart, 60% negligent and the plaintiff 30% comparatively negligent. Ralph Parker was awarded $________ which was reduced accordingly. The jury also found that the defendant franchisee was not the agent of the franchisor and a defense verdict was entered for the franchisor Domino’s Pizza, Inc.

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