"When I met with them," Block remembers, "Eric was still in a deep coma, and the Brodys had hardly slept in two months. They looked like zombies. We didn't know what to expect — whether Eric would come out of that coma and what kind of condition he'd be in if he did. So we delayed demanding their policy limits. But I didn't foresee the type of battle that we encountered. Reasonable companies offer their policy limits when they should if an injured party is willing to take it. Ranger took the position, 'You'll never get a claims bill through the Legislature.' "

In January 1999, ten months after the accident, Detective Bjorndalen filed the final BSO report on the accident. The report found Eric at fault because he had "improperly turned left" in front of Thieman's cruiser. The report also claimed that Eric had failed to use his seat belt.

"That report was baloney; I knew it would never happen," Chuck says now. "I taught my kids to drive, and none of them ever drove without a seat belt."

"We enforced that rule before anybody else," Sharon adds, "because we had a friend whose niece had been killed in a car accident. Sometimes I'd leave the house at the same time Eric did and drive a little behind just to watch him. Eric was really cautious on the road."

The Brodys filed suit against BSO in February 2001. Over the next several years, Block sent BSO's insurance company, Ranger, seven separate requests for the company to tender its $3 million policy limit. Ranger never responded. In conversation with Block, though, BSO's lawyers said they had recommended that the insurer settle the case. On January 16, 2003, the Brodys made Ranger an offer: They would drop their lawsuit in exchange for the $3 million limit. Again, there was no reply from Ranger.

On August 18, 2005, the day that Broward County Circuit Judge Thomas Lynch set the date for the trial, BSO's attorney, Michael Piper, finally responded for the insurance company. Seven years after the accident, they offered the Brodys the policy limit of $3 million.

Block had already spent $750,000 preparing for the trial, and Eric's health-care bills had reached $1.5 million. Letters of protection for all the services he'd received — the physical and speech therapies, the guardianship lawyers — meant that those fees would have to be paid after a settlement. The $3 million might have barely covered the expenses Eric had already incurred. "There would be no money left for him," Chuck says. "He'd have nothing." Eric's life-care plan alone — the cost to support him for the next 52 years — along with economic damages, was estimated at $12 million.

To win the case against BSO, Block knew he had three challenges: to prove negligence on the part of Thieman and BSO; to show that Eric was not at fault; and to prove that Eric was wearing his seat belt. Block had summoned a slew of experts to re-create the scene of the crash. Dr. Donald Struble, a former engineering professor specializing in collision reconstructions, along with Dr. Harry Snyder from Virginia Tech, testified that the crash would never have occurred if Thieman had been driving the 45-mph speed limit or if he had not steered to the right.

Block called seat-belt expert Stephen Syson, who definitively testified that Eric had been belted. Photos from the crash scene showed the unspooled belt hanging out the door. Rescue workers had testified they had never touched the seat belt. "There is no way," Syson testified, "that the seat belt is not going to be retracted after the accident if he's not wearing it." Syson also analyzed the exact location where Eric's head had hit the passenger door, explaining the forces that would cause Eric's body to slip from the shoulder harness.

Finally, Block hired Karco automobile safety lab in California to perform a crash test using a 1982 AMC Concord and a Ford Crown Victoria, exactly like the cars in the original accident. The test cost more than $100,000. After the reconstructed crash, the dummy, wearing its seat belt, ended up in precisely the same position that Eric had been found by paramedics on the night of March 3, slipped from its shoulder harness, its head impacting the passenger-side door almost exactly where Eric's head had hit.

Chuck and Sharon came to the courthouse just a handful of times during the two-month trial. They testified themselves and brought Eric in to take the stand. With the help of a speech therapist, Eric answered questions about school and work. "You could see the jury gasping," Chuck remembers. "They could finally see how badly injured Eric really was."

The next time the Brodys showed up was on the final day, December 1, 2005. The jury took five hours to deliberate. "When the jury filed back in," Chuck recalls, "they said, 'We find the defendant, BSO liable, on all counts.' Then they started in with the money figures. So and so for lost wages. So and so for future care. When they added it all up, it was $30.69 million."

BSO was found 100 percent negligent. It was one of the largest verdicts in the nation that year.

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1 comments
ImmaFree
ImmaFree

RiverStone Claims Management LLC is owned by the Fairfax Group.  They are all evil, corrupt, awful place.  Void of morals.  Hateful. Not in the least surprised they would screw and horribly injured person out of what is rightfully his. The top management at RiverStone is  bloody evil. 

 
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