A recent article about a jury verdict caught my eye as a motorcyclist and an Aventura wrongful death attorney. According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the family of a man killed in a 2006 motorcycle accident has been awarded $8.48 million in court. The family of John Potts, 51, sued James Harvey for failing to yield at a flashing red light as Potts crossed the intersection. Harvey’s Hummer hit the motorcycle Potts was riding, killing him before he arrived at the hospital. The jury verdict includes $4 million for Tracey Potts, the victim’s widow; $2 million for each of their two daughters; and $480,000 in lost income for the family. Harvey’s attorney could not be reached for comment, but the Potts family’s attorney said they were happy with the verdict.
The accident took place Aug. 8, 2006 at the intersection of Beeline Highway and Jog Road outside West Palm Beach. Potts was on the highway, approaching a flashing yellow light, while Harvey was on Jog Road approaching a flashing red light. Witnesses said Harvey slowed for the red light but did not stop, causing him to “T-bone” Potts as his motorcycle passed through the intersection. Potts was not wearing a helmet. Harvey was on the job at the time, as a self-employed environmental lobbyist. The Potts family’s attorney said Harvey’s defense first focused on suggesting that Potts should have anticipated the cross traffic. Harvey’s attorney also argued that a construction company working on the Florida Turnpike should have put a green/yellow/red light at the site.
As a Miami Gardens wrongful death lawyer, I’m pleased that the jury apparently did not believe these arguments. It is unfortunately common in wrongful death cases for the defendant to blame the victim. However, Florida law requires drivers to treat flashing red lights as if they were stop signs, and Harvey reportedly did not do that. That means he ran the red and is legally responsible for the results. I’d also like to discuss the fact that Harvey was at work at the time of the accident, which usually means the employer shares legal responsibility. That might seem like a moot point when the driver is self-employed, but in fact, it might mean Harvey’s business assets as well as his individual assets are available to pay a legal judgment. In this case, that could mean business insurance as well as his individual auto insurance.