Minister Killed by Drunk Driver; Daughters Awarded $3,900,000

Minister Killed by Drunk Driver; Daughters Awarded $3,900,000

On March 13, 2014, our clients’ father, a 61-year-old Methodist minister, was driving home on Highway 120 in San Joaquin County when he was hit head-on by a Ford F-150 truck driven by a drunk driver who swerved over the median into his lane. Our clients’ father died of his injuries 16 days later.

The truck was owned by the drunk driver’s employer, a recycling equipment company, and given to him for his use. Our clients, the minister’s daughters, filed claims against the driver and his employer for negligence and punitive damages. Partners Dale Minami and Mark Fong alleged that the driver was acting in the course and scope of his employment at the time of the accident, which made the employer vicariously liable for his negligent and reckless conduct.

The Defendants requested early mediation. We presented extensive documentation on the loss of care, comfort, society, and advice the minister provided to his daughters, 2 of whom are adults and one of whom is a minor. Although the decedent earned very little in salary—which made a claim for loss of his economic support difficult—he had an unusually close and deep relationship with his daughters, whom he helped instruct and guide their whole lives.

We argued that although his daughters did not suffer the loss of money or material wealth, their loss was far more precious than this: they lost the richness of their future relationship with their father. To support their claims, we compiled a presentation using photographs, letters, text messages and emails, as well as declarations from other ministers who witnessed the loving interaction between the daughters and their father.

The case did not settle at mediation, but Dale Minami continued to negotiate with the defendant’s adjustor, arguing the value of the relationships between the decedent and his daughters. The insurance company’s representative actually began understanding the significance of the daughters’ losses and raised his offer from the mediation significantly after numerous conversations with Minami.

Eventually, the clients’ claims settled for a total of $3,900,000. After the settlement, Mark Fong convinced the decedent’s health insurer to waive its lien for reimbursement for his medical bills totaling $613,000, which allowed the daughters to net that much more from their settlement.

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