Motorist fails to yield right-of-way, striking and killing motorcyclist

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Verdicts & Settlements

April 26, 2011

Motorist fails to yield right-of-way, striking and killing motorcyclist 

Brian Heikkila, 23, was riding his motorcycle northbound on a four-lane road. As he passed a medical center, southbound motorist Michael Hemphill entered a turn lane dividing the northbound and southbound lanes and attempted to turn left into the medical center’s parking lot. Hemphill struck Heikkila’s motorcycle head-on, throwing Heikkila off the bike and under the car’s front bumper. He suffered massive blunt trauma injuries and died shortly afterward. Heikkila was working as a manager at a Walmart store and is survived by his minor daughter, parents, and two siblings.

Heikkila’s parents, individually and on behalf of his minor daughter, sued Hemphill, alleging he failed to keep a proper lookout and yield the right-of-way. Suit against Hemphill’s mother and brother, who owned the car he was driving, alleging vicarious liability for his negligence.

The plaintiffs sought lost future earnings of about $793,500 based on Heikkila’s estimated lifetime earnings as a manager.

The trial court issued a directed verdict for the plaintiffs on liability, and the case went to the jury solely on damages.

The jury awarded about $2.8 million, including $1 million to Heikkila’s daughter, $500,000 to each parent, and about $800,000 in economic damages to the estate.

Citation: Heikkila v. Hemphill, No. 2008 33442 CICI (Fla., Volusia Co. Cir. Mar. 25, 2011).

Plaintiff counsel: David L. Sweat, Port Orange, Florida.

Comment: The car owners’ insurance carrier refused to defend the case, claiming that Michael Hemphill was listed as an excluded driver on the policy.

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