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Mena v. Humberto Herrera, $10M Verdict, Wrongful Death – Case Analysis by Justin Heim, Travis Davis & Sevy Fisher; Webinar Hosted by Daniel Kramer
February 14 @ 10:00 AM - 1:00 PM PST
Justin Heim of Law Offices of Justin R. Heim, and Travis Davis and Sevy Fisher of The Simon Law Group, represented the father and mother in a wrongful death action for the tragic death of a 21-year-old boy who was the victim of a drunk driving incident. The decedent, Arnold Mena, was killed when Defendant, Luis Humberto Herrera, drove into him at an incredibly high speed and then fled the scene. Herrera later burned the car in an attempt to conceal the evidence.
Initially, coverage issues stood in the way of the true case value. However, after the Defendant’s insurance company unreasonably refused to tender a mere $15,000 liability policy, the Plaintiffs pursued the action to trial.
The case presented many novel issues. Herrera was imprisoned for killing Arnold Mena, and with Covid-related shutdowns his deposition and trial testimony were difficult to secure. At trial, Hererra’s defense counsel tried on multiple occasions to exclude evidence of the arson. The trial court denied such requests, ruling that it went directly to issues of liability and credibility of the Defendant. Finally, the interplay between the criminal case (and pleas resulting therefrom) and the civil case was a constant contention.
Ultimately, the jury valued Plaintiffs’ non-economic damages (economics had been waived) at $10 million. They found Herrera sixty percent at fault for Arnold Mena’s death and the resulting injuries to Plaintiffs.
Another novel issue presented by this trial revolved around having two separated parents as distinct and separately represented plaintiffs.
The separation of the parents, and the distinct difference in their relationship with decedent created an opportunity for defense. Specifically, we knew that defense would attack one of the parents as being a sort of “absentee parent.” Cutting this defense off required that we collectively address it and stand unified from voir dire to closing. By the time of defense’s closing, the defense was left stating that they weren’t suggesting that the love of one parent wasn’t worth any more or less than the other.
- When to waive economic damages in a WD case.
- Not mentioning Defendant’s bad behavior facts in mini opening and voir dire when you know Defense counsel will do the same
- Using relevant time periods of your trial to tell your damages story (i.e. November/December trial and Family Holidays).
- Getting a willful suppression of evidence instruction even though the incident was on video
- Presenting your case with two separate law firms representing separate plaintiffs for the same incident