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$1.4 MILLION DOLLAR VERDICT IN UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA STUDENT PEDESTRIAN CASE

On April 4, 2019, after four years and four months of legal battles, Sean T. McFly was finally vindicated* by a jury verdict assigning 100% fault to the University of Florida and awarding him $1,411,000.00. McFly, now an alumnus of UF’s College of Veterinary Medicine, was hit on campus in a crosswalk by a UF work truck during his final year as a student. McFly was represented by Julie Aleve Fine and Cherie H. Fine of Fine, Farkash & Parlapiano, the family run personal injury firm, located in the Historic Downtown area of Gainesville, FL.

McFly Footage

Still image from surveillance footage the moment before impact.

The Day That Changed Sean’s Life, Permanently

On December 4, 2014, McFly was walking to his first class of the day, when a UF work truck driven by a UF employee barreled through the crosswalk, throwing him 18 feet to the concrete. Rushed by EMS to Shands, McFly later learned that he had sustained permanent injuries to his spine as well as other orthopedic injuries. The once healthy and extremely active young man found himself in constant pain, his life now overwhelmed by the need for medical appointments and rehab. McFly’s physical pain and injuries were compounded when UF refused responsibility, blaming him for not getting out of the way quickly enough.

Because of his mounting medical bills McFly found himself needing an experienced legal team, one he found in his legal team at Fine, Farkash & Parlapiano.

CAUGHT ON TAPE

One of the vital aspects of McFly’s case was a UFPD campus surveillance video that captured the incident. (shown below). However, despite this video evidence, the University’s lawyer contested McFly’s claim at every turn, leading to the long years of litigation that culminated finally in the four-day jury trial in Alachua County.

McFly’s lead litigation attorney, Julie Fine, a double Gator and UF Law graduate herself, was at first incredulous; knowing UF’s own policies espouse a commitment to being safe for students and friendly to pedestrians.

“This case was upsetting – I saw the video and I was in total disbelief. Sean was hit by a University employee—who was on his cell phone and driving—while on campus walking to class in a pedestrian crosswalk. And instead of apologizing or at least checking on Sean, they blamed him and argued that he was never actually hurt,” said Julie Fine.

PRESENTING THE CASE: FFP’s Litigation Experience Defeats University

To help the jury calculate his likely future expenses, his legal team presented the opinions of the physicians who had cared for his injuries, along with a neurologist and biomedical expert, Dr. Richard Boehme. Using the video, and taking into account the truck’s make and model, Dr. Boehme calculated the speed of the truck and the distance traveled. Dr. Boehme further explained to the jury that at impact McFly’s body sustained 1,130 lbs. of force, more than enough force to damage McFly’s cervical spine.

This information, along with property damage photos and objective evidence of McFly’s injuries, showed a clear match between the nature of the collision and his damages. “Injuries like Sean’s will generally worsen over time.  He’s young, looking at a life of over 40 years managing pain,” Fine said.

Used at trial, MRI imaging comparison depicted McFly’s deteriorating condition of his cervical spine.  Five separate medical experts (including defense experts) testified that there were visible annular tears in McFly’s discs and the soft, jelly-like nuclear material had been and would continue to leak out, causing pain and further permanent nerve damage.

Overnight Sean’s life changed. His pain was incessant, and his time and money centered on his recovery and pain management, receiving steroid injections and physical therapy. But the years of treatment and diligent physical therapy could not change the facts. The accident had caused permanent nerve damage to the right side of his body, his medical experts explained at trial, he would need at least 2 major spinal fusion surgeries over the course of his life to prevent further nerve damage to his right hand.

“What a lot of people don’t realize is that the worst injuries from getting hit by a car or truck may not present right away,” McFly said. “I was grateful to encounter a team that understood what I was going through, and have continued to understand two, three and now four years later.”

McFly continues to pay medical bills to his many medical providers, along with, and ironically, his student loans from the University.

“UF spent over four years claiming that Sean was not really hurt and blaming him for following safety rules, which they ignored,” said Fine.

“They seemed to believe that the rules didn’t apply to them. So in closing I asked the jury ‘to bring back a verdict that said that common sense matters, that the rules apply to everyone, and that Sean T. McFly matters’ and that’s what they did.”

McFly believed in his attorneys and the litigation team at Fine, Farkash & Parlapiano, P.A., and knowing that they believed and were there for him.

“I wish that this had never happened or at least that UF had owned this from the start, but you can’t change the past,” said McFly.

“I am so thankful for Julie, Cherie, and everyone at FFP and I’m just grateful to have a just resolution and finally be able to move forward with my life.”

*MCFLY WAS INJURED, UF IS PROTECTED: Florida Statute 768.28 Caps Amount Owed to $200,000

What most people (and McFly’s jury) are not told is that the $1,411,000.00 jury verdict is not what he’ll get. Although the verdict was the jury’s determination of a fair and reasonable amount for what was needed to compensate McFly, the Florida Law prohibits this amount. Under Florida Statute 768.28, any award from a state agency (like the University of Florida) is capped at $200,000 per person injured or killed and $300,000 per occurrence, if multiple people are injured or killed.

For victims like McFly, the only remaining remedy is a legislative claims bill—a difficult and lengthy process where counsel can petition the state legislature to pass a one-off appropriations bill.

We live in a country that instills the importance of taking responsibility for one’s actions, we all have to take responsibility for our choices, decisions, and actions. But UF never took responsibility for hitting their student, in their crosswalk, on their campus, and instead forced Sean and the state to rack up 4 years of costs fighting the claim. If this was really about using state funds wisely, UF could have made a reasonable settlement early on,” said Fine.

(For more information about Sovereign Immunity and McFly’s fight for justice, stay tuned for our next blog post expected May 2019).

Contact a Pedestrian Accident Lawyer in Gainesville Now

If you’ve been hurt in a pedestrian accident, it is crucial to have experienced legal counsel to help you avoid common pitfalls that could derail your injury claim. The Gainesville pedestrian accident lawyers of Fine, Farkash & Parlapiano P.A. are committed to helping our clients every step of the way, and we will help you protect your claim and pursue the maximum amount of compensation possible.

Contact us at (352) 376-6046 to set up a free consultation on your case.