Palm Beach County
Susan Letterman v. National Trucking Center et al., Case No. 2015CA001204 (Palm Beach County). This was a major truck accident that resulted in the death of the driver. Many defendants were sued. I represented Defendant Rudy’s Plumbing Service Inc. in the matter. The Defendant Rudy’s Plumbing had previously been one of the owners of the truck involved in the incident and it was alleged that he had failed to properly maintain the truck or warn of potential dangers concerning its tires to the purchasers he sold the truck to. Regardless, the truck had been sold multiple times thereafter until the driver who perished in the accident drove it. Although this was a tragic case, Rudy Garcia was the sole owner and proprietor of his own business, Rudy’s Plumbing Service Inc. A self-made businessman who came to the United States from Cuba fleeing communism and after many years of hard labor, Rudy Garcia obtained his plumbing license in Florida and started his own company. There came a time where he purchased a septic tank and the truck that was at issue in this lawsuit, but within a short period of time, he sold it. Years later, after the truck had changed hands many times over, it was driven by Werner K. Letterman, who died following a tire blowout. Rudy was one of 15 defendants sued. He was caught in the crossfire. When he owned the truck, it was insured by State Farm; however, when he reported the lawsuit to State Farm, the company denied him a defense. Rudy went from law office to law office searching for an attorney to defend him for a reasonable fee. He was turned down at every law office until he came to me. I took an interest in the case because it appeared to me that this was a classic “wrong place, wrong time” pattern. But, more importantly, it struck me as wrong that his insurance company at the time denied him a defense. So, I took a 2 step approach to the problem. I defended Rudy’s Plumbing Service Inc. against the lawsuit filed by the Plaintiff, the estate of Mr. Letterman. I also sued State Farm under a declaratory action, demanding that State Farm uphold its duty to defend. In its entirety, the case was litigated for many years, but fortunately for Rudy, his company was let out very early in the case. After sitting through 5 hours of deposition, being questioned by a room full of 15 different attorneys, after sifting through millions of Megabytes of discovery files, and with the assistance of State Farm counsel James P. Murphy, a summary judgment was entered in favor of Rudy’s Plumbing Service Inc. on August 4, 2017 by the Honorable Edward Artau. The case against the remaining defendants continued. Although there was no need for a trial, the case is significant for many reasons. For one, it was a prime example of what can happen to any individual or small business if left unprepared without the assistance of counsel or an insurance carrier. Rudy was left all alone, with no attorney wanting to take his case. There were no big settlements to make and no big billable hours. As a sole proprietor, Rudy was barely able to keep his business together and feed his family. A default judgment could have ruined him. His own insurance company initially denied him a defense. Fortunately, I studied law because I believe in the Constitution and in our justice system. When I heard Rudy’s case, I wanted to make sure that he understood that the United States was not Cuba. He had rights in the U.S. Because his corporation had been sued, he could not represent his company, and he needed a lawyer who would represent his small business for a reasonable fee. I took on the challenge. After his victory on both ends (1) forcing State Farm to uphold its duty to defend, and (2) winning on a Motion for Summary Judgment, Rudy became a believer in the American Justice system. The companion case that I had filed against State Farm was Case No. 2016CA005032 (Palm Beach County).