Hillsborough to sue insurance company for blocking wrongful death settlement

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I find this next article very interesting and would love to know more about it.

The Tampa Bay Tribune reports that Hillsborough County is suing their insurance company for blocking a settlement.

This is the background: Dominguez, a 39 year old nurse and mother of three,  was driving home from a nursing shift at Brandon Regional Hospital the morning of Feb. 6, 2010, when her 2005 MINI Cooper crashed into the back of a Hillsborough Solid Waste Management Department truck pulled over on Veterans Expressway, near Hillsborough Avenue. The wreck left Dominguez critically injured; she died five days later.  The Florida Highway Patrol ruled in 2010 that Dominguez was at fault, not Santiago Hasbun, the Hillsborough truck driver. The truck’s engine died, Hasbun told troopers, and traffic prevented him from pulling onto the shoulder, so he stopped the truck in the roadway and put warning cones behind it. He tried to turn on emergency blinkers, he said, but the truck was out of power and they didn’t work.  The weather was clear that morning, troopers noted in the traffic homicide investigation, and Dominguez should have been able to see the truck up ahead. There were no signs that she did, troopers concluded. Dominguez did not brake before her car ran over one cone and hit the truck.  Osur, the lawyer representing Dominguez’s estate, disagrees with the Highway Patrol’s conclusions.  Hasbun should have pulled the truck onto the grass median and placed the warning cones behind the truck improperly, Osur said. Testimony given by other county employees in pretrial depositions bolster his case, Osur said, but he declined to release transcripts or any other evidence.

Two years into a wrongful-death lawsuit brought by the family, the county lawyers aren’t liking their case.   The defendant’s dislike isn’t for any other reason than the county’s insurance company.  Star Insurance Company is the only thing that stands in the way of the family of Darcia Dominguez collecting a settlement of up to $2 million for her death.  So, Hillsborough County government is gearing up to sue Star Insurance Company. County commissioners approved a request by attorneys Wednesday to sue Star over the impasse, forcing a judge to decide whether the insurer has veto power over a settlement between Hillsborough and the victim’s family.The agenda for Wednesday’s commission meeting said Hills­borough’s lawyers feel there’s “significant risk of a substantial verdict against the county” in this case.

Star provided auto insurance for Hillsborough in 2010, with a liability limit of $2 million. The insurer and Hillsborough’s lawyers disagree on several aspects of state law and the auto policy, but there’s one core disagreement: Star thinks it can block a settlement.  “I think the statute is pretty clear, and we can go ahead and settle,” county lawyers said. “Our problem is the insurance company isn’t going to pay it.”
Hillsborough’s lawsuit against Star could take months or years, Fletcher said. Meanwhile, Osur plans to move forward with his wrongful-death case. He’s offered to settle three times for $2 million or less, he said. Each time, Star has rejected his offer. “If we get a verdict in the multimillions of dollars, the county will be responsible, and Star Insurance will be responsible,” Osur said. “I’ve never seen anything so blatantly wrong in my 34 years of practice.”

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