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How an accident pushed one Orlando woman into the intersection of our city's professional-incest machine...
Published: February 23, 2012
The cost for Pfeiffer’s four-day ORMC stay, including surgery on her knee, swelled to $44,216, though her insurance eventually covered all but $189 of that. She says that while under Newlin’s brief representation, it became clear that the car that hit her – a Chrysler Global Electric Motorcar, one of 10 leased by O-Cartz, according to Lamb – was uninsured. Documents produced by Allstate, which had been insuring Lamb’s company, L3 LLC, showed that the insurance had lapsed on July 31, 2009, more than seven months prior to the March 14 incident.
In just over a week, Newlin lost interest in Pfeiffer’s case, transferring it to another Morgan & Morgan attorney, Harran Udell. He notified Pfeiffer by letter that Udell would be taking over the case. (Newlin officially left the firm in October 2011.)
In the ensuing months, Udell attempted to build a reputable case. He requested the city’s video surveillance footage, insurance information for all involved parties and city records regarding the history of Lamb’s O-Cartz enterprise. A lawsuit naming Chrysler Financial Services, Lamb and Campbell was filed on June 22, 2010, claiming, among other things, that Pfeiffer “suffered bodily injury, including a permanent injury to the body as a whole, pain and suffering of both a physical and mental nature, disability, physical impairment, disfigurement, mental anguish, inconvenience, loss of capacity for enjoyment of life, aggravation of an existing condition, expense of hospitalization, medical and nursing care and treatment, loss of earnings, loss of ability to earn money and loss of ability to lead and enjoy a normal life.”
But Chrysler Financial Services would prove hard to pursue. Attorneys for the company filed a motion to dismiss the case soon after it was filed, claiming that the company was not responsible for any damages – so long as said damages weren’t caused by a malfunction of the vehicle – because of the federal Graves Amendment. Enacted in 2005, it states that in Florida (as well as many other states), “vicarious liability” laws are superseded by federal law, which holds that owners of leased vehicles are unaccountable for the acts of those who lease them. Graves was upheld by the Florida Supreme Court in May 2011 when the court ruled in favor of Enterprise Rent-a-Car in the Vargas v. Enterprise Leasing Co. case, wherein a Florida woman’s rental car, driven by her son, ran into another car. Enterprise was held harmless.
At least Chrysler Financial Services responded. It took three months to serve Lamb with a copy of the lawsuit, and Campbell – who was no longer working for the company – was never served because a private investigation firm couldn’t locate his whereabouts. Udell requested an extension from the court for more time to contact all three named parties, and he was given until Dec. 22, 2010. A deposition for Lamb was scheduled for Feb. 1, 2011, but court documents indicate that he didn’t show up; Chrysler Financial Services’ attorneys dismissed the request for any depositions in light of their pending motion to dismiss. The case was falling apart.
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