Boca law firm wins whopping $14.3 million verdict

BOCA RATON – The Boca Raton law firm of Ellis, Ged & Bodden, which specializes in personal injury cases, won a near-record verdict this month when a Palm Beach County jury returned a $14.3 million judgment in favor of a Boca man seriously injured in a February 2010 highway accident.

The victim’s attorney, Mark Packo, commended his team at Ellis, Ged & Bodden for quick and thorough preparation for the case that was scheduled with little notice.

“We got a call at 2:30 p.m. on Friday, saying they were going to start picking a jury on Monday,” Packo said. “We spent the whole weekend in here, and by Monday, we hit the ground running.”

His team members included attorney Mike Dickenson in second chair; lead paralegal Ellen Cunniff and Cunniff’s assistant, Yolaida Dale.

Preparation included a mock trial conducted in a courtroom at the law firm’s North Federal Highway office.

By the time trial came, Packo said, “we were where we wanted to be. That’s what we excel at. We have great teams.”

The highway crash victim, Fabio C. Noguera, 59, was seriously injured when a tractor trailer truck driven by Julio Lasso Ceron impacted his Ford Escort from behind, causing the car to turn 90 degrees. The truck pushed the vehicle sideways the length of two football fields before it stopped. In the end, Noguera’s car was pinned under the front of the truck.

Packo said Noguera sustained neck and back injuries that aggravated his diabetes and his rheumatoid arthritis, rendering him unable to work. He had been employed full time as a toll attendant on Florida’s Turnpike, despite struggling for years with rheumatoid arthritis.

Noguera filed a civil suit against the driver and the trucking company, Panther Logistics.

Testimony indicated the driver of the tractor-trailer moved into Noguera’s lane as he traveled south on the highway. During the trial, the driver said that when his truck contacted the Escort, he heard two bumps and a noise that sounded like a blown tire. He said he did not even realize he’d been involved in an accident, Packo said.

The jury awarded $14.3 million in damages to Noguera for medical expenses and pain and suffering — one of the largest awards in a non-fatal auto negligence case in Palm Beach County. However, that amount was halved because jurors felt there was negligence on the part of both Ceron and Noguera.

Packo said there were no independent witnesses or physical evidence. He said a team driver who was in the truck at the time of the crash was asleep and saw nothing.

The Ellis, Ged & Bodden attorney explained that Noguera’s only remedy for his arthritis was to exercise and “constantly push himself.” He said the accident forced him into a sedentary lifestyle where he requires a cane even to walk to his car.

Packo said the victim, who lives at Century Village in Boca Raton, cannot bring himself to drive on the highway anymore, so he can no longer visit his daughter, his only child, in Miami. She has to visit him.

Because of his injuries, Packo said, Noguera will have to undergo more surgeries, and faces the possibility that the rheumatoid arthritis may worsen.

According to Packo, Noguera’s health has been declining in the two years since the accident.

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