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Lee County

Evidence showed that the fatal accident which gave rise to this action arose from high school students racing their cars to school one morning. The decedent’s vehicle was struck in the front driver’s side by a car driven by the defendant Andrew DeSpain. DeSpain alleged that his car was forced off the road by the co-defendant Craig Stevens (the decedent’s boyfriend).

DeSpain contended that he attempted to pass Stevens, but Stevens moved into the left lane forcing his car off the road. The collision occurred when DeSpain regained the road surface, lost control of his car and struck the front driver’s side of the decedent’s car as she passed another vehicle. The defense also alleged that the decedent was comparatively negligent for failure to wear her seat belt.

Evidence showed that the defendant DeSpain had passed the decedent’s vehicle once and the decedent had passed the DeSpain and Stevens car once in route to school on the morning of April 20, ________, before the accident occurred. There was testimony that the defendant Stevens, who was driving a Ford pick-up truck, would not let the decedent back in after she passed him, but would speed up to prevent her from completing her pass.

Eventually the decedent completed her pass.

The defendant Stevens was then driving behind the decedent’s car on Burnt Store Road when the co-defendant, DeSpain, driving a ________ Camaro, attempted to pass the other cars, according to testimony offered. DeSpain testified that Stevens moved into the left lane, forcing his car off the road onto the grass. When DeSpain’s vehicle regained the road surface, he lost control of the vehicle and struck the rear of the decedent’s car at approximately 80 mph, according to the plaintiff’s accident reconstruction expert. The decedent’s car was straddling the center line of Burnt Shore Road at approximately 65 mph while completing a pass of a slower-moving vehicle when the impact occurred. Burnt Store Road is a two-lane road which has a 55 mph speed limit. Evidence showed that the DeSpain vehicle p 7 3 traveled on the grass for some ________ feet before reentering the road surface and striking the decedent’s car.

The co-defendant Stevens testified that he moved towards the left lane briefly to pass the slower moving car, noticed DeSpain coming up from behind and swerved back, remaining in his lane.

Stevens denied forcing DeSpain’s vehicle off the road. Steven’s expert contended that DeSpain left the road, not to avoid Stevens, but to pass the decedent who was already occupying the passing lane in passing the slower moving car.

The decedent’s vehicle was catapulted into a head first roll by the impact and testimony indicated that it rolled "football" style approximately 3.5 times. The decedent and a passenger in the decedent’s car were both ejected through the sun roof. The decedent’s vehicle then landed on her body and she died at the scene. The decedent was not wearing a seatbelt at the time.

Evidence showed that the roof of her ________ Honda Prelude had crushed down to within eight inches of the belt line.

The decedent was shown to be a straight "A" student and was a member of her school’s cheerleading team. Her parents are involved in the commercial fishing industry. The plaintiff did not make a claim for economic damages.

The defendant’s seat belt expert testified that the decedent would not have been ejected through the sunroof of the vehicle, would not have been struck by the car and, therefore, would not have been killed if she had been wearing her seatbelt at the time of the accident.

The jury found the defendant DeSpain 50% negligent, the defendant Stevens 10% negligent and the decedent 40% comparatively negligent. The plaintiff was awarded $________, which was reduced accordingly. The award included $________ each to the decedent’s mother and father. DeSpain had a $________ liability policy limit which had been offered to the plaintiff prior to suit being filed. After the verdict, DeSpain settled with the plaintiff for his policy limit plus costs. Stevens filed an Offer of Judgment in the amount of $________. Because Stevens would have been entitled to costs and attorney’s fees based on a net verdict against him of $________, the plaintiff settled with Stevens after the verdict for $________.

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