Virginia Lawyers Weekly//September 25, 2023
Virginia Lawyers Weekly//September 25, 2023//
Type of action: Wrongful death
Injuries alleged: Death by blunt force or fire
Court: Henrico County Circuit Court
Tried before: Judge
Name of judge or mediator: Judge Richard S. Wallerstein Jr.
Date resolved: 5/5/2023
Verdict or settlement: Settlement
Attorneys for plaintiff: Benjamin R. Rand, W. Randolph Robins Jr. and Michael W. Lantz, Richmond
Description of case: Decedent’s vehicle was rear-ended by a tractor-trailer traveling at highway speed on Interstate 295 late at night, resulting in a fire and his passing. The truck driver claimed that the decedent’s vehicle was stopped in the roadway with no lights on and was impossible to see. There were no other witnesses that could describe the decedent’s vehicle before impact and the fire rendered a forensic reconstruction of the electrical systems impossible. Notice was provided to the defendant trucking companies that appeared to be related to the tractor at issue, and they denied liability. Suit was filed and process personally served on registered agents for defendant LLCs in North Carolina. A courtesy copy of the complaint and summons was provided to counsel who sent the liability denial letter. Defendants did not timely file responsive pleadings and a motion for default judgment was noticed. The court entertained a variety of arguments regarding the validity of service on the defendants and continued the case for an evidentiary hearing later. Between the hearings counsel for the defendants withdrew and new counsel appeared. At the second hearing plaintiff was prepared to call a process server and private investigator to testify about service of process and the identities of the registered agents of these fly-by-night trucking companies. The court subsequently entered partial default judgment for the plaintiff; after financial discovery revealed that the companies were insolvent, a settlement was reached for the available insurance coverage of slightly less than $1 million. The sole beneficiary was decedent’s minor child. Nearly all the settlement proceeds were used to purchase a structured settlement with the assistance of Gary Blankenship. The decedent’s child will receive nearly $1.5 million in periodic payments for the next three decades.
W. Randolph Robins Jr., counsel for the plaintiff, provided case information.