CVN screenshot of plaintiff's attorney Nick Rowley delivering his closing argument
Springfield, MA - A Massachusetts state court jury awarded $9.5 million in damages on Friday to the two adult children of a woman struck and killed by a truck while walking her dog in 2017.
An 8-person Hamden County jury deliberated for just over three hours following a three-day trial before awarding $3 million to each of Zoe Rosenthal’s children, who are in their early 30's, in addition to $1 million for Rosenthal’s pain and suffering. The total amount also includes an additional $2.5 million for pre-judgment interest.
Attorneys for defendant Charles Davignon, who drove the truck that struck Rosenthal, conceded that he was liable for her death. That left the jury tasked solely with determining how much to compensate Rosenthal’s children for the death of their mother, a teacher who was 52 at the time of the accident.
Plaintiff’s attorney Nicholas Rowley of Trial Lawyers for Justice, who represented Tiffany Castillo and her sister Chelsea, asked the jury to award $68.2 million, according to Courtroom View Network’s gavel-to-gavel webcast of the proceedings.
Davignon’s attorney, James Manistas of Murphy & Manitsas LLP, did not ask the jury for a specific amount of damages, but suggested an award of $68.2 million would be unreasonable, characterizing it as enough money to purchase “300 homes.”
“Reasonable is 100 percent of what something is worth,” Rowley countered in his closing argument. “Anything less is cheap, and cheap is unreasonable.”
Rowley told CVN after the trial that the jury’s award far exceeds the defense’s highest settlement offer of $1.2 million, which Rowley said was made before the trial began and never adjusted.
Manistas did not respond to a request for comment.
“For the last three years, the defendant refused to take responsibility for their mother’s death,” Rowley said in a statement released after the verdict. “That changed during this trial. This trial was necessary because the insurance company acted irresponsibly and cheaply. Now they’ll have to face the consequences.”
The award has the potential to increase substantially beyond $9.5 million, according to Benjamin Novotny of Trial Lawyers for Justice, who also represented the plaintiffs. He cited a Massachusetts law that requires a judge to double or triple a jury award if an insurance company willfully failed to make a “prompt, fair, and equitable” settlement offer when liability was “reasonably clear.”
“In MA, the burden is on the insurance company to prove that any offer was prompt, fair, and equitable,” Novotny said. “Also, the plaintiff does not have to show that they would have accepted any such offer. We only need to show that we suffered some harm or adverse consequence as a result.”
Novotny said the insurers involved in the case are The Commerce Insurance Company, Safety Insurance Company and StarStone National Insurance Company.
The plaintiffs were also represented by Charlotte Glinka and Karen Zahka of Milton-based Keches Law Group
The trial took place in a courtroom outfitted with plastic dividers, and attorneys wore masks while addressing the jury. The trial was recorded gavel-to-gavel by CVN, which has resumed video coverage of trials of interest to the legal, business and educational communities as civil dockets have rapidly come back online.
In California, CVN is currently webcasting a bellwether trial involving pharmaceutical companies alleged responsibility for the opioid crisis, along with a premises liability trial involving a child’s near-drowning in a hotel hot tub.
In Florida CVN is webcasting a medical malpractice trial involving robot-assisted prostate surgery, and CVN also just concluded coverage of a vehicular negligence trial involving FedEx that ended in a defense verdict.
The Massachusetts trial was captioned Tiffany and Chelsea Castillo v. Charles Davignon, case number 1879CA00247-B in Hamden County Superior Court.
E-mail David Siegel at firstname.lastname@example.org