Clawson Fargnoli has been included in South Carolina Lawyers Weekly’s Top 25 Verdicts and Settlements of 2018 with our hard-fought settlement of $1,400,000.00 in an impaired driving/police pursuit case. An excerpt from the article follows below, but we would like to take this opportunity to again remember Mr. Steve, a loving husband, father, and grandfather who was cherished by his community and who brought joy to students and staff during his high school days.
South Carolina’s Top Verdicts & Settlements 2018
By: David Donovan February 14, 2019
Insurance, municipal fund pay $1.4M for a head-on crash
The estate of a man killed when his vehicle was struck head-on during a police pursuit has settled its wrongful death claims for a total of $1,400,000, his attorneys report.
On April 6, 2017, Liberty police well exceeded 100 mph while chasing 29-year-old Nicholas Blackstock through town for a faulty brake light. According to reports, officers had gotten word from another police department that Blackstock might have had drugs in the vehicle. The chase, which lasted approximately 10 minutes, ended shortly after Blackstock and a pursuing officer crossed the centerline on U.S. Highway 123. The chase continued for about a mile, against oncoming traffic, before Blackstock crashed into 59-year-old Steven Richardson, killing him. Attorneys for Richardson’s estate, Samuel Clawson Jr. and Christy Fargnoli of Clawson & Fargnoli in Charleston, said that Blackstock was under the influence of a “variety of drugs,” including methamphetamine, at the time of the crash.
Clawson and Fargnoli said that Richardson’s insurer, Auto-Owners, tendered the full $300,000 limits of underinsured motorist bodily injury coverage, but only $50,000 of the UIM property damage because the issue of pro-rata allocation of punitive damages across coverages was a novel question that had been certified to the South Carolina Supreme Court in a different case.
After the court determined in Geico v. Poole that these damages should not be allocated pro-rata, the attorneys said, Auto-Owners tendered the remaining $250,000 of UIM property damage coverage. Blackstock’s insurer, Geico, tendered $50,000 for bodily injury and property damage limits. Richardson’s estate also claimed that Liberty’s police officers were negligent in the “initiation, conduct, and failure to terminate” the high-speed pursuit, asserting that Blackstock’s initial violation, an equipment violation, was far outweighed by the danger of a high-speed chase posed to the public.
“Multiple occurrences were alleged under the South Carolina Tort Claims Act to obtain multiple actual damage caps,” Clawson and Fargnoli wrote in an email. “The South Carolina Municipal Insurance Risk Financing Fund tendered $750,000 on behalf of the City of Liberty to settle all claims pre-suit.”
Clawson said that the firm is proud to have maximized the value of the various claims by “advancing arguments relating to the recovery of punitive damages from property damage coverage under an insurance policy and multiple occurrences” under the Tort Claims Act. “We were not the first to advance these arguments, but hopefully our work on these claims will assist future plaintiffs in obtaining full value on their claims and not allow insurance companies and government entities to hide behind policy language and statutory law to improperly limit their exposure,” Fargnoli said.
SETTLEMENT REPORT — WRONGFUL DEATH
Amount: $1.4 million
Case Name: Tracy Mattison as Personal Representative of the Estate of Steven Richardson vs. Nicholas Blackstock and City of Liberty
Court: Pickens County Circuit Court
Case No.: 2017-CP-39-01339
Date of settlement: Aug. 1, 2018
Most helpful experts: Geoffrey Alpert, criminal justice professor at the University of South Carolina and police misconduct expert witness
Attorneys for plaintiff: Samuel Clawson Jr. and Christy Fargnoli of Clawson Fargnoli in Charleston
Attorneys for defendant: Kyle Thompson of Willson Jones Carter Baxley in Greenville for Nicholas Blackstock; James P. Walsh of Clarkson Walsh & Coulter in Greenville for Auto-Owners; Jim Jolly of Logan Jolly & Smith in Anderson for the City of Liberty and the officers individually
Think of Clawson Fargnoli for life-altering personal injury and death cases across the state, including police pursuit and motor vehicle accident cases.