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Automobile driver failed to yield in fatal motorcycle crash
Lee County Circuit Court, 20th
Wrongful Death; Motor Vehicle – Speeding, Left Turn, Motorcycle, Intersection; Affirmative Defenses – Contributory Negligence
Edward E. Parke, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Sean E. Parke, Deceased v. Michael A. Miozza and Evelyn F. Miozza,
August 31, 2018
Estate of Sean E. Parke (Male, 17 Years)
Goldberg Noone, LLC;
Estate of Sean E. Parke ■ Sheba Abraham;
Goldberg Noone, LLC;
Estate of Sean E. Parke ■ Michael M. Noone;
Goldberg Noone, LLC;
Estate of Sean E. Parke
Harry Hamburger; M.D.; Ophthalmology; Miami,
FL called by:
Elizete Velado, Sheba Abraham, Michael M. Noone ■ William Fischer; P.E.; Accident Reconstruction; Cape Coral,
FL called by:
Elizete Velado, Sheba Abraham, Michael M. Noone
Evelyn F. Miozza,
Michael A. Miozza
Michael A. Miozza ■ Scott J. Frank;
Butler Weihmuller Katz Craig LLP;
Evelyn F. Miozza ■ Caroline A. Adams;
of counsel, Butler Weihmuller Katz Craig LLP;
Evelyn F. Miozza
Safeco Insurance Cos.
On Jan. 9, 2014, plaintiff’s decedent Sean Parke, 17, a student, was motorcycling west on Cypress Lake Drive, in Fort Myers. At the same time, Evelyn Miozza was driving a minivan east on the same road. Miozza attempted to make a left turn across the westbound lanes of traffic and onto nearby Lake Breeze Drive. At the intersection, Sean’s motorcycle ran into the passenger side of the minivan. Sean died at the scene. Sean’s father, Edward Parke, serving as personal representative of his son’s estate, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Miozza. Parke claimed Miozza was negligent in the operation of her vehicle. Parke also initially sued Michael A. Miozza, who was listed in registration documents as the owner of the vehicle, for vicarious liability. However, he had actually passed away several years before the accident and was thus removed from the case prior to trial. The case initially went to arbitration, and an award was given to Parke. Defense counsel then requested a trial de novo. At trial, the estate’s counsel argued that Evelyn Miozza failed to yield the right of way. Counsel presented an accident reconstruction expert who stated that prior to the crash, Miozza attempted to accelerate through the intersection. According to the estate’s counsel, the minivan’s black box confirmed this conclusion. The estate’s counsel thus claimed that if Miozza had hit her brakes in the intersection instead of hitting the gas pedal, the accident would not have occurred. Counsel also presented evidence that she had vision problems. Miozza stated in her initial deposition that she did not wear glasses and never had any cataracts or other vision problems. However, the estate’s counsel presented medical records showing that she had been prescribed glasses, though it was unclear if she was wearing them at the time of the crash. Four months after the accident, an eye test concluded she only had 20/200 vision without corrective lenses. The estate’s counsel further argued that in June 2013, six months before the accident, Miozza was told to follow up with an eye doctor about her previously diagnosed cataracts. However, according to the estate’s counsel, she did not follow up until May 2014 and did not have the cataracts removed until July of that year. The estate’s counsel retained a vision expert who testified about how the weather conditions at the time of the accident could have affected the vision of someone with Miozza’s eye problems. The defense pointed to a report from the Florida Highway Patrol, which had concluded that Sean was responsible for the crash because he was speeding. Several witnesses maintained that they heard the motorcycle’s engine roaring prior to the accident and saw him weaving in and out of traffic. Those witnesses concluded that Sean was traveling over the 45 mph speed limit. They made this determination primarily based on how fast their own vehicles were going prior to the collision. The police also performed a Vomhof analysis and found that Sean was driving approximately 66 mph. Defense counsel presented this analysis to the jury. The estate’s counsel, however, maintained that due to the facts of the crash, this form of analysis was not fully accurate. The estates counsel specifically argued that using Vomhof was not appropriate for cases involving a narrow motor vehicle such as a motorcycle. The defense also retained an accident reconstructionist who did various crash analyses and determined that Parke was going at least 69 mph and possibly over 80 mph. The defense argued that if Sean had been traveling at the speed limit, he would not have been in the intersection when Miozza made the left turn. The defense also argued that the plaintiff’s own expert admitted on cross-examination that if Sean had been going at the posted speed limit, or even at 55 mph, then the accident would not have occured. Defense counsel also argued that the minivan’s speed increase through the intersection was minor. According to defense counsel, the van only went from 17 mph to 19 mph. While the estate’s counsel conceded that Sean was likely speeding before the intersection, the plaintiff’s expert accident reconstructionist said Sean was likely going closer to 55 mph. The estate’s counsel argued that due to the traffic conditions of the road, it’s unlikely Sean would have been going 65 or 70 mph. The estate’s counsel also noted that several drivers near the crash were knowledgeable about motorcycles. They determined that Sean’s bike had a special kind of exhaust that made the motorcycle sound loud even when it wasn’t going incredibly fast. These witnesses did not talk to the police immediately after the crash because they had not actually seen what had happened. However, the estate’s counsel used their court testimony to argue that the motorcycle might not have been going as fast as some of the other witnesses thought.
Sean Parke died on impact at the scene of the accident. Edward Parke specifically claimed that he felt alone after his son’s death. He also went to regular therapy sessions for a year after his son’s passing. Parke also sought religious counseling and returned to psychological counseling shortly before the trial. Sean’s estate sought recovery of his funeral expenses and damages for Edward Parke’s past and future mental pain and anguish. The defense argued that Edward Parke’s anguish over losing his son has resolved a year after the accident. The defense specifically pointed to the fact that Parke stopped going to therapy after a year as evidence that he was moving on with his life. The defense also pointed out that Parke remarried in May 2014, shortly after the passing of his son. The defense argued that this was evidence Parke had moved on with his life.
The jury found that Sean Parke was 15 percent liable for the accident, and that Evelyn Miozza was 85 percent responsible. The jury determined that the estate’s damages totaled $5 million. After the comparative-fault reduction, the net verdict was $4,250,000.
Estate of Sean E. Parke: $3,700 Wrongful Death: Funeral Burial Expense; $400,000 Wrongful Death: Past Mental Anguish; $4,596,300 Wrongful Death: Future Mental Anguish
John E. Duryea
1 male/ 5 female
During the trial, defense counsel moved for a mistrial. The motion was renewed following the trial but was denied. Defense counsel has since filed a motion for a new trial, or, in the alternative, remittitur.
This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff’s and defense counsel. Additional information was gleaned from court documents.