Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Attorney Discusses Recent Landmark Florida Uninsured Motorist Lawsuit

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Levine & Glassman obtain successful appeal of an insurance policy lawsuit against GEICO. They are currently awaiting a reissued verdict.

After nearly six years of fighting corporate interests, it is immensely rewarding to know that our perseverance has made a difference

The firm of Levine & Glassman took on the car rental and automobile insurance industries in what is shaping up to be a landmark case which could fundamentally change the business practices of at least two major corporations.

On December 17, 2006, Paola P. was stopped at a toll plaza as she returned home from the Miami Airport. Paola P., a single mother of two children, was killed instantly when an Enterprise rental car operated by Edgar B. collided into the rear of her vehicle at full speed, according to court documents. The Enterprise car driven by Edgar B., was rented by his brother who was visiting from New Jersey. Edgar B., who lived in South Florida and had his own vehicle, never intended to drive his brother’s rental car. In fact, Edgar B. only drove the rental car on the night of the accident because his brother was feeling ill, as stated in the court records.

Due to the passage of the Graves Amendment, a Bush Administration law that partly relieved rental car agencies of responsibility for injuries caused by an uninsured driver operating a vehicle, Enterprise was protected from any potential liability arising from the accident. Therefore, under the circumstances, the only option for compensation for Paola P.’s minor children was from Edgar B.’s $10,000 insurance policy with Geico. However, although court documents show that Edgar B.’s insurance policy with Geico was in effect, Geico denied coverage to its insured driver.

Specifically, Geico stated that Edgar B. was not listed as an additional driver under Enterprise’s rental contract, and, therefore, did not have the express permission of the owner to operate the vehicle at the time of the accident. Geico alleged that Edgar B.’s policy was void because Enterprise did not expressly permit him to operate the rental car. The attorneys representing the family alleged that this position by Geico was in conflict with long standing principles of Florida law, which granted the lawful possessor of a vehicle with all the rights and responsibilities of the vehicle’s owner.

Despite the coverage denial by Geico, Florida personal injury attorney Mark Glassman, Esq., of Levine & Glassman, took up the fight to seek justice for Paola P.’s family (Case #07-14010 CA20, 11th Judicial Court, Miami-Dade). As explained by Mr. Glassman, “since the early days of the tourism boom, Florida law has sought to protect its citizens from injuries caused by tourists who, by nature, are transient. With the passage of the Graves Amendment, the car rental industry was successful in lobbying for a Federal law that stripped consumer protections put into place by the Florida legislature."

However, Mr. Glassman obtained a judgment in the amount of $5,000,000.00 against Edgar B. for negligently causing the death of Paola P. Thereafter, Mr. Glassman filed suit against Geico for allegedly improperly denying insurance coverage to Edgar B., and sought to collect the $5,000,000.00 judgment directly from Geico (07-37719 CA02, 11th Judicial Circuit, Miami-Dade).

Following this legal filing, Geico’s team of lawyers removed the case to Federal Court (07-cv-23044 & 07-cv-23358, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida) and presented a combination of state laws from Louisiana, Connecticut and New Jersey, states that provide differing levels of consumer protection than Florida, to the Federal Judge, according to court documents. As a result, the parties endured three trials, and the last trial resulted in a defense verdict in favor of Geico. But this was not the end of the fight.

Through its partnership with appellate counsel, Levine & Glassman filed an appeal on behalf of its clients (Case #1:07-cv-23358). Fortunately, the panel of judges who reviewed the case at the appellate level was headed by a former Florida Supreme Court Justice. After holding oral arguments, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the lower court decision by relying upon Florida’s longstanding legal principles of consumer protection when it comes to automobile accidents. The Appellate Court not only vacated the jury’s verdict, but also dispensed with the necessity of another trial by declaring that, as a matter of law, Geico wrongfully denied coverage to Edgar B.

Following the release of the Appellate Court’s decision, Mr. Glassman stated, “After nearly six years of fighting corporate interests, it is immensely rewarding to know that our perseverance has made a difference.”

At this point in the legal process, before the family of Paola P. can be awarded the $5,000,000.00 judgment, Levine & Glassman will attempt to convince another Federal Court Judge that awarding $5,000,000 to Paola P.’s two minor children is reasonable. As Mr. Glassman explains, “we are cautiously optimistic that the Judge will agree that $5,000,000.00 is reasonable compensation for two children ages 11 and 12 who lost their only parent.”

Mark Glassman, Esq., is one of the founding members of Weston personal injury law firm, Levine & Glassman, LLC., and has been a Florida auto accident lawyer for over 15 years. He is a graduate from the Florida State College of Law and is a member of the American Bar Association and the American Trial Lawyers Association. In 2011, he was honored as a Florida Trend's "Legal Elite 2011." Mark is married with two children, and enjoys playing basketball and coaching his son's soccer team.

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