A man who lost his leg after a 2007 jet ski crash won a multimillion-dollar settlement last month after the insurance company refused to settle for $500,000.
The crash occurred on Lake Norman when Howard Hazlett and Frederick Gibb were operating jet skis borrowed from their acquaintance, Royce Syracuse. Gibb’s jet ski collided with Hazlett’s, totaling Hazlett’s jet ski and crushing Hazlett’s leg, which had to be amputated three days later.
Hazlett sued Gibb and Syracuse, alleging Gibb was directly negligent and that Syracuse had negligently entrusted the jet skis to them. Gibb filed a counterclaim alleging Hazlett was responsible for the crash and his injury, a broken femur.
While an investigator determined that both parties were at fault, the three week trial began with the judge restricting the investigator’s testimony to only factual evidence, meaning his opinion about what caused the crash was inadmissible.
A jury found Gibb negligent and found that Hazlett was not responsible for causing the crash. The jury also found Syracuse was not negligent in entrusting his jet skis to the two men.
The attorney for the plaintiff told jurors Hazlett suffered $3.12 in damages and said that figure should be the minimum award. The jury agreed and awarded 5 million plus $742,876.34 in prejudgement interest.
As the insurer of the jet skis, State Farm was responsible to pay out up to $1 million from its umbrella policy. On the first day of trial the plaintiff asked for a 550,000 settlement to resolve the case. State Farm was only willing to settle for $350,000.
“State Farm chose to gamble and lost,” the plaintiff’s attorney said.