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Children of Prominent New Jersey Couple Settle Lawsuit – Insurance Company Settled the Policy Limit of $11 Million During Mediation

December 3, 2007
Colson Hicks Eidson

Miami, Florida December 3, 2007 – The lawsuit filed in Miami Dade County on behalf of Michael Klein and Lisa Klein, for the wrongful death of their parents Alan B. Klein, 52 and Deborah M. Klein, 49, both from Cherry Hill New Jersey, was settled during mediation on November 30,2007 for $11 million.

Deborah and Alan Klein were in Florida to visit his father, Morton Klein, 78, who was gravely ill. On February 11, 2005, at approximately 10:30 pm, the couple was traveling northbound, in the left lane, approaching the entrance ramp of State Road 91 in Broward County, Florida in a 2003 Ford vehicle. Traveling with them were 2 other relatives. Behind them, in the right lane, was a tanker trunk that had just left Port Everglades, loaded with approximately 9,000 gallons of fuel. Both drivers were approaching a two lane curve. The confidential settlement prohibits the disclosure of the defendants.

According to witnesses, the tanker made the turn too fast, skidded approximately 30 feet, flipped onto its left side, landed on the Klein’s vehicle, slid 40 feet, pinned the car against the guardrail and then exploded and burst into flames. The flames burned at temperatures between 1200 and 2200 degrees – hot enough that it melted the asphalt and the aluminum of both vehicles, and left the victims charred beyond recognition. DNA tests revealed that Deborah and Alan Klein were two of the victims.

The lawsuit alleged that the Miami based tanker company and its driver were responsible for the death of the Kleins due to negligence, including negligent & reckless driving; failing to exercise reasonable care while operating a fuel tanker containing volatile fuel; negligently hiring of the driver to operate the tanker when he was unqualified; negligently entrusting the tanker to the driver, who had a bad driving record; failing to properly train, instruct or supervise the driver in the safe operation of the tanker; failure to maintain the tanker; and negligently failing to meet the industry standards for safety. “The tanker company claimed that the driver was a safe driver when in fact his driving record indicated that he had 10 violations, including a ticket for driving 80 mph in a 55 mph zone,” said the attorney for the Klein’s children. “The tanker company had a duty to know their employee’s driving record and act accordingly for the safety of others.”

Both Alan and Deborah Klein were successful business persons and prominent leaders in their community. Alan Klein was President –Elect of the Jewish Community Center in New Jersey and Debbie Klein was Vice President on the board at Samoset Jewish Family and Children Services. They were deeply respected individuals and the proud parents of Michael and Lisa Klein, both college age. The lawsuit sought damages on behalf of the children, who as a result of the Defendants’ negligence, lost their parents’ love, guidance, companionship, and support and will continue to do so into the future. The two other passengers in the vehicle have also filed suit and their outcome is pending. The Klein children’s economic damage claim, however, was expected to be the largest as a result of the relatively young age of their parents and the substantial loss of income involved. Additionally, the Klein’s children are entitled to recover non-economic damages for the mental anguish and grief that the wrongful death of their parents caused them to suffer. “The driver should not have been allowed to drive a tanker full of fuel,” said Colson Hicks Eidson partner and plaintiffs’ attorney. “His reckless driving has forever altered the life of the Klein children. Their parents in essence were cremated alive. This should have been avoided.”