$45M Verdict Announced in Fatal Tractor-Trailer Accident

Elizabeth DiNardo, Esq. | Associate Counsel

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On October 25, 2017, a Broward County Florida jury awarded a $45 million verdict to the family of 29-year-old Jonathan Raymond Astaphan who was killed when a flatbed tractor-trailer exited a construction zone on Interstate 75 in Florida by making a U-turn across four lanes of traffic.

The driver of the tractor-trailer, Juan Calero, was described in the complaint as an employee of a subcontractor hired by South Florida construction company, Ranger Construction Co. (“Ranger”). On the night of the accident, Ranger directed Calero to move a load of concrete barriers. At 11pm, Calero was facing northbound on I-75 and without closing any additional traffic lanes or using any sort of extra illumination, he attempted to make a U-turn into southbound traffic.

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At the time of the accident, Ranger Construction was fulfilling a contract with the Florida Department of Transportation. Attorney for the plaintiff, Stuart Ratzan, argued that Ranger had violated the terms of its contract with the Department of Transportation, which required that the defendant not put any construction vehicles on the highway that would disrupt the flow of traffic. The contract also required that Ranger utilize lane closures if it would be operating construction vehicles that were too slow to safely merge into traffic. Calero was operating an 80,000-pound tractor-trailer that Ratzan argued had no chance of gaining enough speed to safely merge with traffic. The $45 million verdict consists of $20 million in compensatory damages and $25 million in punitive damages against Ranger, plus an additional $5,000 in damages against Calero, bringing the total verdict to $45,005,000.

The case is: Astaphan v. Ranger Construction Industries, Inc., Case No.: CACE-15-012992 (Fla. 17th Cir.) (Broward)

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