Posted on Mar 08, 2006
Jury awards $5.25M to children
MIAMI - The two children of a Miami-Dade judge killed by a drunk driver were each awarded $2.125 million Tuesday by a jury that deliberated 40 minutes.
Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Steven Levine, 47, and passenger Lourdes Maldonado, 32, were killed instantly when a pickup truck ran a stop sign and smashed into his Corvette at an intersection in rural South Miami-Dade County in December 2001. The children sued Jose Hernandez who was convicted of two counts of manslaughter and two counts of culpable negligence in the case. He is serving a 24-year prison sentence.
Ruben Soto was also in the truck at the time of the crash. At their 2004 criminal trial, it was disputed which man was the driver. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Lawyers for the children, Madison, 16, and Jake, 14, and their mother, Tracy Howard, said they will sue Hernandez's automobile insurance company, United Automobile Insurance Co., to try to collect the money.
Attorneys Philip Friedin and Robert Brown said after they will file a bad faith lawsuit against the insurance company for refusing to make any offer of settlement.
Attorney Jim Murray, who defended Hernandez at the two-day trial and represents the insurance company, did not return a call for comment. He did not present any witnesses.
For the civil trial Soto was dismissed as a defendant and Hernandez was accused as the driver and was the sole remaining defendant.
The jury awarded a total of $5.25 million, a little over half the $10 million sought by the children and Howard as their personal representative.