Congratulations to Florin Roebig Attorneys Tommy Roebig and Shaun Cummings for obtaining a verdict in a personal injury case stemming from a fatal collision that has been the subject of nationwide media attention in recent years. Following the recent trial to determine several critical legal issues, a Hillsborough Circuit Court awarded 24-year-old Florin Roebig client Jay Davis a verdict last week, affirming that Defendant Vivian Medina is liable for a wrong-way DUI crash which was caused by her son, Christopher Ponce, in Tampa that left Davis seriously injured. Davis and two friends were driving on I-275 in the early morning hours when Medina’s son struck Davis’ car head-on while improperly driving southbound in a northbound lane. The impact of the collision tragically killed 20-year-old William Angel, while Davis and the other passenger sustained devastating injuries. Davis was left in critical condition and had to undergo emergency reconstructive surgery.
Ponce was arrested after the crash and will face a criminal trial arising from this event. His trial was delayed for a significant period of time because Ponce fled the jurisdiction and was hiding in Europe which caused an international manhunt for him, as featured on CNN’s “The Hunt” hosted by John Walsh.
In this trial, the Court found Defendant Medina to be vicariously liable for any negligent use of her son’s 2012 Ford Fusion, according to Florida’s dangerous instrumentality doctrine.
Throughout the trial, Defendant Medina denied responsibility for any damages from the collision, maintaining that Ponce was the only valid legal title owner of the Ford at the time of the crash. Medina’s defense rested on the assertion that paperwork submitted to the Florida Department of Highway and Motor Vehicles relieved her of any ownership of the car and consequent liability for the accident. Specifically, Medina argued that her signature on a Motor Vehicle Title Reassignment Supplement was forged, invalidating any right to ownership of the Ford. However, a close review of documents revealed both Ponce and Medina to be the legal record owners of the car on the day of the fatal crash. Pursuant to Florida Statute §319.23(1), the owner of a new vehicle after purchase must apply to the Florida Department of Highway and Motor Vehicles to have title issued in their name by submitting an Application for Certificate of Title, accompanied by a Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin. Co-owners who are applying for title should do so using the same Application form. Medina’s signature alongside Ponce’s on an Application for Certificate of Title and a Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin positively identifying the purchasers as “Christopher Ponce or Vivian Medina” were found sufficient to create Medina and Ponce’s co-ownership status when the car was purchased, although the documents were later changed.
Damages suffered by Jay Davis will be determined in a jury trial that is being scheduled.