PHILADELPHIA – Reportedly, the largest pre-verdict settlements in Pennsylvania state court history have been secured, as four victims of a fatal food truck explosion in Philadelphia’s Feltonville neighborhood in 2014 are due to receive a record-setting amount of $160 million.
Per the settlement’s terms, U-Haul will pay case plaintiff “Alex Doe” $69.17 million, fellow minor plaintiff “Jane Doe” $54.35 million and the Estates of deceased mother and daughter Olga Galdamez and Jaylin Galdamez, $36.47 million, plus an additional confidential settlement amount.
Alex Doe’s is the biggest pre-verdict settlement in Pennsylvania state court history, while Jane Doe’s is the biggest settlement ever for a minor in Pennsylvania state court history and the Galdamezes’ estate settlement is the biggest pre-verdict wrongful death settlement in Pennsylvania state court history.
Subsequent to a week of mediation before Federal Magistrate Judge Diane Welsh, attorneys for the plaintiffs announced the historic settlement amounts in a press release issued Wednesday.
Alex Doe was represented by Robert Mongeluzzi, Andrew Duffy and Benjamin Baer of Saltz Mongeluzzi Barrett & Bendesky, Jane Doe was represented by Thomas Duffy, Kenneth Fulginiti and Sarah Filippi Dooley of Duffy & Partners, and the Galdamezes’ were represented by Alan Feldman, Daniel J. Mann and Edward S. Goldis of Feldman Shepherd Wohlgelernter Tanner Weinstock & Dodig, all of Philadelphia.
Andrew Duffy, counsel for Alex Doe, said, “This is an unprecedented settlement achievement by a group of outstanding plaintiffs’ attorneys who worked tirelessly and cooperatively to reach this record-setting result. We are extremely happy that our client will be able to receive necessary medical treatment. I have no doubt the unified and carefully-strategized approach by the plaintiffs’ team maximized the recovery for all clients. I am also pleased with U-Haul’s responsible and cooperative approach in working with the plaintiffs on this matter.”
Fulginiti, counsel for Jane Doe, said, “Jane suffered unspeakable burns. The settlement will provide for her medical and educational needs for the rest of her life. She is also grateful that steps have been taken to reduce the chances of this ever happening to anyone else. I know that all of our clients were well-served by this tremendous team effort.”
Feldman commented that “two amazing lives were lost in this tragedy.”
“We hope the settlement will bring the family some closure, and trust that because of this incident, corrective measures will be adopted to improve propane-dispensing safety in order to prevent future catastrophes,” Feldman said.
Plaintiff counsel Mongeluzzi also offered a statement on U-Haul’s cooperation with attorneys in this matter.
“U-Haul recognized that this was a terrible tragedy, and although denying liability, looked beyond the adversarial process and showed persistent compassion to the victims, focused on compensating them, ensuring their financial independence and is making changes to ensure that a tragedy like this never occurs again,” Mongeluzzi said.
The winding history of this action began when plaintiff Uliser Galdamez filed a product liability and wrongful death lawsuit in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas in August 2015 against U-Haul and Eri Vending Food Cart, Inc., over a fatal explosion which took the life of his mother, Olga, 42, and younger sister, Jaylin, 17.
The two women were working in the La Parrillada Chapina food truck, which Olga owned, near 3rd Street and Wyoming Avenue on July 1, 2014, when a deteriorating propane tank installed in their truck ruptured and exploded, consuming the truck in flames and creating a street-wide fireball that also injured 11 bystanders.
Olga and Jaylin died of their burns and other injuries three weeks later.
Appointed as the administrator for both of their estates, Uliser Galdamez alleged the “negligence, carelessness and/or reckless conduct” of all defendants ultimately led to the fatal explosion, alleging the propane tank lacked necessary safety devices and was filled improperly, in violation of federal law.
According to the initial lawsuit, U-Haul regularly refilled the “old, deteriorated and damaged” propane tanks used by the truck and Eri Vending Food Cart was responsible for the design and installation of the truck itself.
Subsequent separate lawsuits were filed by plaintiffs in or near the vicinity of the food truck when it exploded, including three motorists, two pedestrians, two family members of the truck owner, a customer and an assistant, before later being consolidated for purposes of discovery.
Prior to settlement, the case had been tentatively slated to see the inside of a Philadelphia courtroom next month.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Justice announced a six-count federal indictment against U-Haul Company of Philadelphia and General Manager of its Hunting Park location Miguel Rivera for violating hazardous materials regulations, in the matter connected to this civil litigation.
Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas cases 150601947, 150604168, 150802703, 151002106, 160201011, 160603418, 160603689, 160603754, and 160603848
From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at email@example.com