The high-profile DUI vehicular homicide trial of Jim Leyritz is taking place here in Broward County, and one aspect of it attracted my attention as a Fort Lauderdale wrongful death lawyer. According to a Nov. 8 article from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the prosecution’s case against Leyritz, a former New York Yankee, is faltering. Eyewitnesses are not giving the testimony jurors were led to expect, the newspaper said, and jurors have also learned that the victim was about as drunk as Leyritz was during the crash. Those developments could hurt the state’s chances of convicting Leyritz. But fortunately for the family of the woman killed, they have already reached a settlement in a separate wrongful death case against Leyritz, ensuring that they will be fairly compensated no matter what happens in criminal court.
Leyritz, who helped the Yankees to a 1996 World Series victory, is accused of killing Fredia Ann Veitch. The 30-year-old mother of two was crossing a Fort Lauderdale intersection at 3:19 a.m. on Dec. 28, 2007. The prosecution alleges that Leyritz was drunk when he ran a red light and hit Veitch’s SUV, pushing the vehicle into a pole and causing Veitch to be thrown into the road. However, testimony at the criminal case suggested that the light may have been yellow when Leyritz entered the intersection. That passenger and a police officer also testified that Leyritz didn’t seem very drunk. Perhaps more importantly, testimony established that Veitch was also drunk — a medical examiner found a BAC of 0.18 after she died, and a friend testified they’d been drinking together that evening. In addition, the jury has not heard testimony establishing that Veitch was using her phone just before the crash, driving without headlights and not wearing a seatbelt.
If the jury sees this the way the Sun-Sentinel clearly has, it’s true that this case would be an uphill battle for the prosecution. Only time will tell if that’s true. However, as a Hialeah wrongful death attorney, I’d like to emphasize that the outcome of this trial is completely independent from the outcome of the wrongful death lawsuit filed by Veitch’s family, which was settled earlier this year. In fact, the outcomes would be legally distinct in any case, but the fact that the lawsuit settled first means the outcome of the criminal trial couldn’t have affected potential jurors in the civil case. That means families that lost a loved one under unjust circumstances can use the civil courts for a second chance at justice — even if they lose in criminal court or prosecutors choose not to file any charges.
At Cohn, Smith & Cohn, we have never represented a family that would rather have a large amount of money than get its loved one back. But when family members are killed through someone else’s negligence, families frequently suffer economic harm along with the sudden emotional loss. If the wrongly killed person was a wage-earner, his or her income is suddenly cut off. If he or she was a primary caretaker, the family will most likely have to hire someone to do that job. In addition to medical and funeral costs, all of this adds up quickly for a family also struggling with grief. That’s why our Boca Raton wrongful death lawyers work hard to get clients fair compensation, handling the legal and financial side of the case so clients can work on rebuilding their lives.
If your family has lost someone through someone else’s carelessness, you should talk to Cohn, Smith & Cohn about whether a lawsuit is right for you. To learn more or set up a free consultation, send us a message online or call our main Pembroke Pines office at (954) 431-8100.