Summary Judgment in Wrongful Death Case Affirmed

Posted in Verdicts and Settlements on February 27, 2024

Diane H. Tutt, an appellate partner in the firm’s Hollywood office, recently argued an appeal in a wrongful death case in which Dale L. Friedman, a partner in the firm’s Hollywood Office, had obtained summary judgment.  The case was brought by the personal representative (mother) of an intellectually disabled adult who was residing in a group home and was struck and killed by a vehicle as he walked across a roadway to get a snack. The Fourth District Court of Appeal affirmed summary judgment for our client. 

The decedent was never ruled incompetent and he was in a non-lock down group home at the request of his mother.  His mother, as personal representative, sued the group home for negligence related to her son’s care and supervision, and sued our client, a Medicaid waiver support coordinator, who was responsible for obtaining approval for supports and services for the decedent from the Agency for Persons with Disabilities. The allegations against our client were that the support coordinator failed to ensure that the decedent obtained a behavioral assessment which the Plaintiff claimed could have resulted in the decedent not leaving the group home at night and not walking across a busy roadway. 

The trial court ruled that because our client had not been the support coordinator for at least a year before the accident, it did not have a duty of care, pursuant to case law holding that a defendant has a duty of care only if the defendant has the ability to “control the risk.”  The court also ruled that, even if there was a duty, there was no breach by our client.  On appeal, the Plaintiff challenged these rulings, but the summary judgment was affirmed without a written opinion.