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Miami-Dade County

This action stemmed from a collision between a van occupied by six Mexican immigrants and a tractor-trailer operated by the defendant transportation company and driven by the defendant truck driver. The collision resulted in the deaths of three of the van occupants and significant injuries to the remaining three. The driver of the van previously settled his claim against the defendants for $1 million in December, ________. The claims brought by the three surviving passengers were also settled. The defendant transportation company admitted the negligence of its driver in causing the accident.

The decedents, Cortes and Arzate, were seated on the left side second and third rows of the van which was en-route to work at a construction site. As the van traveled on a two-lane road (one lane in each direction) in Miami-Dade County at approximately 6:30 a.m., it collided head-on with the defendant’s tractor- trailer which was traveling in the opposite direction.

Eyewitnesses, who were positioned in two separate vehicles following the decedents’ van, testified that the van was traveling within the legal speed limit in its lane of travel when the tractor-trailer veered from the opposite lanes into the van’s lane of travel. The witnesses testified that the truck driver turned the tractor back into the right lane, but the trailer remained in the oncoming lane. The edge of the defendant’s trailer sheered off the entire left side of van, killing Cortes, Arzate and the driver who were all seated on the left side.

The plaintiff retained an accident reconstruction expert and relied on the testimony of the investigating police officer regarding how the accident occurred. The plaintiff contended that records showed the defendant truck driver had driven long hours, having delivered plants to Orlando, then turned around and returned to Miami-Dade County. The defendant truck driver was given a traffic citation in connection with the collision. He refused to answer questions regarding the accident and pled the fifth amendment.

The first decedent, Cortes, was 40 years old. He was survived by his wife and six children ages 18, 17, 16, 14, 11 and 7. Cortes had a green card to live and work in the United States, but his four oldest children did not. His two youngest children were born in the United States. Cortes was self-employed in the construction field. He was an independent contractor who had assembled the crew which was proceeding to work on the morning of the accident. Some of the workers in the van were illegal immigrants who did not have work permits for this country.

The second decedent, Arzate, was 34 years old at the time of his death. He was survived by a wife and four children in Mexico. His children were ages 2, 6, 9 and 11 at the time of his death.

Testimony established that Arzate was an illegal immigrant with no work permit for the United States. He came to his country to p 7 3 earn money to send to his family in Mexico. Arzate’s wife and children could not obtain visas to come to the United States for deposition or trial. Their videotaped depositions were taken in Mexico with the assistance of an interpreter.

The case brought on behalf of the estate of Cortes settled for a lump sum of $2 million in March, ________. The case brought on behalf of the estate of Arzate settled for a lump sum of $1.2 million in September, ________.

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