$1.75 Million Settlement in Bicycle Crash Death Case
The Haggard Law Firm’s Michael Haggard and Christopher Marlowe have obtained a $1.75 Million settlement in a case where a father of two was killed by a county bus.
Eric Tenner was happily married to his wife Maria, with whom he had two young boys. On the morning of October 8, 2014, he headed out before work to get in his daily exercise on his bicycle. He was an avid and competitive cyclist, who was wearing all of the recommended safety equipment. Just south of the intersection of SW 124th Street and the US1 Busway in southwest Miami-Dade County, Mr. Tenner was struck from behind by a County bus driven by a Mr. Jose Sequeira. Mr. Tenner died several days later at Kendall Regional Hospital.
“He was an avid and competitive cyclist, who was wearing all of the recommended safety equipment.”
Mr. Sequeira, the bus driver, was arrested for leaving the scene of an accident involving serious bodily injury. The criminal charges were later dropped, as the State of Florida was unable to prove that Mr. Sequeira was aware he had struck a bicyclist.
Miguel Mora, the driver of the second bus that was behind Mr. Sequeira, pulled over and stopped to assist Mr. Tenner after the accident. He has been driving this particular route for years, and testified that bicyclists and pedestrians are a constant presence there. He acknowledged that bus drivers are specifically trained to expect the unexpected and that when he is driving, it is on “pins and needles” because as professional bus drivers, they are held to a higher standard. He further opined that “they’re constantly getting hit. There’s a lot of accidents on the Busway.”
Throughout the discovery phase, the county correctly identified signage indicating that the Busway was for use of emergency and transit vehicles only. At trial, the main contested issue would have been whether Mr. Sequeira should have reasonably anticipated, seen and reacted to a bicyclist such as Mr. Tenner on the busway at that time of the morning when the sun had not yet risen.
Though the parties were initially excused from the mediation requirement because the Estate would not have accepted the sovereign immunity limits voluntarily, as the case progressed, both sides began discussing whether a negotiated settlement reflecting the strengths and weaknesses of both sides could be obtained. Dr. Fred Raffa, an economist and expert witness on economic damages, gave his deposition on May 16, 2017. He had voluminous materials to review in order to render his opinion regarding the total economic loss of the Tenner Estate.
His review included tax returns from Mr. Tenner’s longstanding employment with one company, as well as the Tenner’s side work in the insurance field. Ultimately, it was determined that the Estate had suffered past and future economic losses in excess of $3,500,000. This number was not contested by a defense expert, and these damages do not include the pain and suffering claims of Maria or of either of their two surviving sons.
If a jury were to have agreed with the two eyewitnesses on board the buses, that Mr. Sequeira should have seen Mr. Tenner, as they did, from a great distance prior to the accident, a verdict would have greatly exceeded the negotiated settlement achieved at the voluntary mediation on June 14, 2017.
Miami Dade County agreed to a claims bill in the amount of $1,450,000 above the $300,000 cap payable pursuant to the sovereign immunity statute, and Governor Ron DeSantis ultimately signed H.B. 6513 into law on May 23, 2019.