Trial Lawyer Nick Rowley, partner at Carpenter, Zuckerman, & Rowley and founder of Trial Lawyers for Justice, Trial Lawyer Courtney Rowley, founder of Trial by Woman, Trial Lawyer Robert Ounjian, partner at Carpenter, Zuckerman, & Rowley, and Director of Special Projects Steve Glass announced today that a jury returned a record setting non-economic damages verdict of $14,600,000 for the immigrant family of a 54 year old farm worker who was negligently killed in a motor vehicle collision. The case went all the way to trial when the insurance company in charge of deciding whether or not to settle the case was confident that conservative jurors in Stanislaus County would not return a large verdict for the family of an immigrant farm worker.
Luis Guzman, a dedicated husband, father, and grandfather, was a hard worker his entire life. On September 9, 2015, after dropping off his son at work, he was driving southbound on Highway 33 in Stanislaus County at 5:54 A.M. to the farm where he was employed. As he slowed down to make his left turn onto Lemon Street, he was hit from behind by a 26,000 pound commercial truck owned and operated by a corporation. Luis’s vehicle was pushed into oncoming traffic where it was struck by another vehicle, killing him, and injuring the other driver. Luis was pronounced dead at the scene.
The lawsuit was brought against the company which owned the commercial vehicle that hit Luis, however it was ultimately the insurance company in control of whether the Guzman family would be paid reasonable compensation under the law.
“We are not a society that believes in an eye for an eye or life for a life justice. We have a civil justice system that was developed over 200 years ago in our country where jurors decide the amount of reasonable compensation that should be paid when negligence hurts, maims, or kills a human being in America,” said Nick Rowley, lead trial lawyer for the surviving wife, Mrs. Guzman.
“This is a very emotional case in which a family lost their husband and father,” added Nick Rowley. “The unexpected loss of a loved one not only puts a tremendous financial burden on a family, but impacts every member of that family for the rest of their lives. In this case, the jury could feel the love this family had for their husband and father, and returned a verdict accordingly.”
“The relationship between a father and child, and the loss of the love and companionship of a father who is negligently taken is something that the law honors,” added Courtney Rowley, who represented Luis Guzman’s two adult daughters. “We were confident that a jury of good salt of the earth people in Modesto would put a great value on this case. The jury did just that and we hope that this changes the way insurance companies value loss not only in conservative Stanislaus County but all across the country.”
The jury deliberated for just 45 minutes before reaching a record setting verdict of $14,600,000 in non-economic damages only. Non-economic damages included loss of love, comfort, protection, assistance, moral support, and society.
The evidence at trial showed that Luis Guzman did not have friends, he had coworkers. After work each day he would come straight home and spend his time with his family. One of his daughters and her children lived at home with him and his other daughter lived less than 10 minutes away. Having supper together as a family was an everyday event and on Sundays, every Sunday, Luis Guzman would wake up early and make pancakes for the entire family. He married his wife in 1983 and once they were settled in Modesto, they never spent a night apart.
“This family would give back every dollar of this verdict just to have Luis back in their lives for a month. They never got a chance to say goodbye to him. While the verdict will never come close to replacing their loved one, it holds those responsible for his wrongful death accountable and makes the insurance companies pay,” added Rowley.