The Zuniga case was recently featured in Missouri Lawyers Weekly – our client was killed when a trip wire the property owner had put on the property “clotheslined” our client while they drove an ATV.
Gary represented Paul’s family in a premises liability all terrain vehicle case. Paul and his wife were ATV riding on property in southern Missouri that they had been to before. The were both on one ATV with Paul driving and were trail riding with the son of the owner of the property. They exited the woods and were headed to another trail head cutting through the front lawn of a house. As they rode between two trees in this yard, Paul’s chest struck a metal wire line that had been strung between the two trees. This immediately halted his forward movement and he and his wife were violently recoiled backwards off of the ATV and onto the ground. The force was so great that Paul suffered severe and traumatic abdomen injuries – “barbed wire” injuries on his abdomen and chest. Paul was airlifted to a St. Louis hospital. He had multiple internal organ injuries and suffered cardiac arrest at the hospital. Despite surgery and aggressive, good medical care, he died. Paul’s wife was also hurt by the sudden stop and suffered broken ribs among other injuries. The classic “clothes line” was a dangerous condition of the premises.
Another lawyer got Burger involved in the case and we immediately filed suit, served process and engaged in discovery with the defendant. As soon as we learned the insurance policy limits in this case were $600,000, we made a time- limited, policy limit demand. We advised the insurance company that they had 30 days to pay $600,000, or the offer would be rescinded and never offered again. Paul’s damages were much greater than this amount; however, his blood alcohol content at the time was .18, over two times the legal limit. The insurance company accepted our demand, and we were fortunate to settle the case for $600,000 for Paul’s family. We divided the settlement for Paul’s death and his wife’s claims and were able to structure a significant part of the settlement. This will provide payments to Paul’s children for college and their first homes.
The lessons learned from this case are as we have oft advised: be careful around ATV’s, unfamiliar property and don’t drink and drive. It was terrible that this land owner had a wire strung between two trees and certainly should have warned Paul and his wife about it. Had they done so, this accident would not have happened. Fortunately, we were still able to obtain a great recovery in this case.
In this type of premises liability case, you need an experienced trial attorney like one of the winning St. Louis area personal injury lawyers at Burger Law.