CVN screenshot of plaintiff attorney Sean Claggett delivering his closing argument. Click here to see video from the trial
Las Vegas, NV - A Nevada state court jury on Tuesday saddled garbage disposal company Republic Services with a $38.8 million verdict in a wrongful death lawsuit stemming from an accident involving a garbage truck that struck and killed an 11-year-old girl in a crosswalk.
The verdict followed a 10-day trial during which attorney Sean Claggett of Claggett and Sykes, representing the family of Jazmin Espana, argued Republic was responsible for her 2017 death by employing a driver with a checkered safety record who allegedly didn’t stop before making a righthand turn into a crosswalk.
Republic argued Espana entered the crosswalk before the traffic signal indicated it was safe, and that the truck’s driver, Julio Cortez-Solano, had the right of way at the time.
The full proceedings were webcast and recorded gavel-to-gavel by Courtroom View Network.
The jury declined to award punitive damages and assigned 27 percent responsibility for the accident to Espana, thus reducing her family’s potential share of the verdict by roughly $10.5 million. However Claggett told CVN after the trial he anticipated collecting an additional $15 million in attorney fees, costs and prejudgment interest.
Claggett told CVN the verdict far surpasses Republic’s initial $250,000 settlement offer in the case, which Claggett says the company increased to $1 million just before the trial began. In his opening statement, Claggett asked the jury to award $65 million to the Espana family in compensatory damages and an unspecified amount of punitive damages.
“It’s a fantastic result, especially knowing what the offers were,” he said.
Claggett said he felt the compensatory verdict reached by the jury was “well thought out and fair.”
“Obviously you’d always like them to give you the number you feel is fair, but they came to a number that is reasonable,” he said.
Claggett expressed disappointment that the jury did not allow a second phase of the trial to consider punitive damages and said he’s considering filing post-trial motions over potential confusion among the jurors created by the verdict form on the punitive damages question.
A spokesperson for Republic expressed sympathy for the Espana family but said the company does not comment on litigation.
Espana’s family sued Republic, which operates in 41 states, in 2018. Their lawsuit alleged the truck’s driver, Cortez-Solano, failed to yield as required by Nevada law and should never have been allowed by Republic to drive one of their trucks.
During the trial Claggett’s told jurors that Cortez-Solano’s safety record was so bad Republic eventually fired him, only to then rehire him a short time later. However Republic’s attorney Dave Barron argued that none of those safety violations had to do with driving a garbage truck.
Both sides relied heavily on expert testimony from accident reconstruction experts.
Las Vegas has been one of the most active jurisdictions for in-person civil jury trials since last year’s pandemic shutdown, and Claggett said despite the surging Delta variant causing renewed shutdowns in other states that this trial almost felt like business as usual for him.
“Other than the masks it felt very normal,” he said.
The trial took place before Judge Jacqueline Bluth
The case is captioned Encarnacion Espana v. Republic Silver State Disposal Inc., case number A-18-782026-C in Nevada’s 8th Judicial District Court in Clark County.
E-mail David Siegel at firstname.lastname@example.org