Sherman v. Courrege
August 15, 2005
By Lisa Braunstein
The Estate of Richard Frank Sherman, Jr. by and through the administrator of his estate, Andrew T. Sherman; The Estate of Pamela Jean Sherman, by and through the administrator of her estate, Andrew T. Sherman; The Estate of Ryan Sherman, by and through his successors in interest; Andrew T. Sherman, Jeffrey Sherman and Karen Sherman v. Estate of Tracy Michael Courrege, William Wade Taylor, Kevin Thomas Magner; and Does 1 through 50, inclusive; Mutual Service Casualty Insurance Company v. The Estate of Richard Frank Sherman, Jr., by and through the administrator of his estate, Andrew T. Sherman; The Estate of Pamela Jean Sherman, by and through the administrator of her estate, Andrew T. Sherman; The Estate of Ryan Sherman; by and through his successors in interest; Andrew T. Sherman, Jeffrey Sherman, and Karen Sherman; William Wade Taylor and Kevin Thomas Magner, No. EC030284
Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Burbank CA
David M. Schachter
Brian J. Panish (lead), Panish Shea & Boyle, Los Angeles, CA (Estate of Richard Sherman)
Clay Steward, Panish Shea & Boyle, Los Angeles, CA (Estate of Richard Sherman)
Steven J. Freeburg, Freeburg, Judy & Nettles, Pasadena, CA (Kevin Thomas Magner)
Rosemarie S. Lewis, Borton, Petrini & Conron, Los Angeles, CA (Estate of Tracy Michael Currege (dismissed from suit prior to trial based on interpleader)
Rissa Ann Stuart, Kahn, Soares Conway, Hanford, CA (William Wade Taylor)
FACTS & ALLEGATIONS
On March 17, 2000, plaintiff’s decedent Richard Sherman, 53, was driving a sedan. Plaintiff’s decedents Pamela Sherman, 51, his wife, and their son, Ryan, 15, were passengers. At the same time, Tracy Courrege was driving a vehicle in the opposite direction. He had two passengers, Kevin Magner in the back seat and William Taylor next to Courrege. They were heading to Mammoth, Calif., to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day weekend. The two cars collided. All three Shermans died as did Courrege. Magner and Taylor were injured.
The three adult children of the Shermans brought a wrongful death suit on behalf of their deceased father, mother and brother against Courrege’s estate and his passengers.
In April 2002, Magner and Taylor each brought separate actions against the Courrege estate to recover for their injuries. Magner’s was consolidated with his action.
Counsel for Sherman’s children and Magner argued that Courrege was driving while intoxicated and crossed the center line, causing the collision. They claimed that he had been drinking vodka prior to getting behind the wheel and that, while en route, had stopped at a liquor store in Independence, Calif., to purchase more vodka, some of which he and Taylor drank while on the road. Courrege’s blood alcohol content was .181.
The Courrege estate admitted liability and argued that any recoveries be limited to a total of $1 million, Courrege’s policy limits. Accordingly, in April 2002 the insurance company interpleaded $1 million. Judge David M Schachter accepted the interpleader and dismissed Courrege’s estate from the suit.
The Shermans also claimed that Magner and Taylor should be found liable for the accident because they had duty to the Shermans to ensure that their driver remained sober and breached that duty by supplying Courrege with liquor and facilitating his drinking and driving. The claim against Magner was dismissed on summary judgment; he was found to have had no duty to the Shermans. Taylor was found to have had a duty to the Shermans which he breached by helping supply Courrege with alcohol. After this finding, Taylor settled with the Shermans for an undisclosed sum and withdrew his claims against the Courrege estate.
death – The plaintiffs sought unspecified damages for loss of society resulting from the wrongful deaths of their mother, father and brother. They sought the full amount of their damages, not limited to the $1 million policy.
Magner claimed $129,594.89 for his past medical expenses as well as unspecified damages for past and future pain and suffering.
The jury awarded the plaintiffs a total of 25.5 million. For the loss of Richard Sherman, each plaintiff was awarded $500,000 in past noneconomic damages and $2 million in future noneconomic damages. For the loss of Pamela Sherman, each was awarded $500,000 in past noneconomic damages and $2 million in future noneconomic damages. For the loss of Ryan Sherman, each plaintiff was awarded $500,000 in past noneconomic damages and $3 million in future noneconomic damages.
Magner was awarded $129,594.89 for his medical expenses. The jury found him to be 75% at fault for his own injuries; resulting in a net recovery of $32,398.72
$1 million pursuant to C.C.P. Section 998
No settlement offer but the estate interpled the $1 million policy limit.
Trial Length: 8 days
Trial Deliberations: 2.5 days
Jury Vote: 10-2 on damages for the death of Richard Sherman; 10-2 for damages for the death of Pamela Sherman; 12-0 on past non-economic damages for the death of Ryan Sherman; 11-1 on future non-economic damages for the death of Ryan Sherman
Jury Composition: 5 male, 7 female
Counsel for Kevin Magner was offered an opportunity to contribute to this report but declined to do so. Counsel for William Taylor did not respond to a faxed draft of this report or two phone calls.
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