The Florida Supreme Court rules injury claims viable under the state pollution statute.
The personal injury law firm of Wooten, Kimbrough, Damaso & Dennis, P.A. recovered a $5.2 million judgment for their client, a tow truck driver who suffered severe chemical burns after helping clean up a tractor-trailer spill that scattered hundreds of car batteries across the highway.
“We were determined to do everything in our power to ensure our client received a fair judgment for the devastating and lifelong injuries he suffered while on the job,” said attorney, Michael Damaso. “Our client’s physical injuries progressively worsened as a result of the chemical burns, which caused him to undergo numerous skin grafts and years of treatment.”
The tow truck driver suffered injuries following a 2011 tractor-trailer crash when the semi-driver lost control of the big rig going off the road and slamming into an embankment of trees, catching fire.
The tractor-trailer was carrying more than 800 car batteries when it crashed, and after firefighters pumped thousands of gallons of water onto the wreckage to extinguish the ensuing flames, highly corrosive battery acid mixed with the water at the scene.
The tow truck driver spent around 15 hours removing the wreckage. The next day, his boots and pants were crumbling and falling apart. The stinging sensations around his feet and legs were the result of direct exposure to sulfuric acid.
“It is a shame that the defendant and their insurance company refused to make good on the damage they caused. After years of litigation, two trials, and appeals it came down to a very easy decision for the Florida Supreme Court. The court unanimously decided that companies that pollute in Florida must be responsible for all the harm they create. Our client’s life was forever changed by this incident, and the defendant did everything they could to avoid taking responsibility,” said attorney, Jack Adams.
The Florida Supreme Court unanimously overturned the First District Court of Appeal’s decision on December 19, 2019. The lower court held the tow truck driver could not sue the trucking company for personal injuries under Florida’s Water Quality Assurance Act, a 1983 strict liability law designed to protect Floridians from contaminating groundwater. The lower court’s ruling effectively vacated the jury’s $5.2 million verdicts.
The Florida Supreme Court said it is wrong to apply the more restrictive definition of damages to the 1983 law, which allows for individuals to sue for “all types of damages.” The ‘all damages’ language of the 1983 act applies, not the more restrictive definition of the 1970 act that excludes damages to human beings,” the high court ruled. “The plain meaning of ‘all damages’ includes personal injury damages.”
The tow truck driver is represented by Michael J. Damaso, II and Jackson W. Adams of Wooten, Kimbrough, Damaso & Dennis, P.A. and Peter D. Webster of Carlton Fields.
Wooten, Kimbrough, Damaso & Dennis, P.A. is based in Orlando, FL and was founded in 1966. Senior Partner, Butch Wooten joined the firm in 1968. The firm has more than 100 years of combined legal experience representing the injured and their families in Central Florida and around the world. Wooten, Kimbrough, Damaso & Dennis, P.A. works aggressively for each client to ensure they receive the maximum compensation deserved. The firm has recovered hundreds of millions of dollars for their clients in auto, bike, motorcycle, boat and aviation accidents, wrongful death lawsuits, medical malpractice cases and more. To learn more, visit https://www.whkpa.com/.