Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Judge orders woman to take $15,000, eight years after fender bender

NEW PORT RICHEY — After eight years of legal tussling between Pasco attorneys and a woman hit by a county bus going 5 mph, a judge last week ordered that a $15,000 settlement will extinguish the case once and for all.

Circuit Judge Lowell Bray ruled that Judith Allen, 67, must take the money. The case had dragged on mainly because Allen claimed she only accepted the settlement under duress — she said she was intimidated and at one point physically pushed by her own lawyers.

In a letter to the board of county commissioners, the county administrator and a state senator on April 23 of last year, Allen described herself as a "lone 66-year-old woman with a serious heart arrhythmia." She wears glasses and floral dresses, and is calm and serious when she speaks. She said the accident fractured her pelvis and she experiences numbness in her hands and shins.

Allen, who ended up representing herself, vented her frustration after the hearing.

"I didn't have a good attorney. I had an attorney who threw me under the bus," she said. "And I was hit by a bus."

• • •

The years-long saga began on July 20, 2005. According to a crash report, Allen was driving north on Leo Kidd Avenue toward U.S. 19, with a county bus behind her. She stopped for traffic and the bus rear-ended her.

Damage to the bus amounted to $9.93, according to the case file, and 15 minutes of labor to swap out a bike rack. Allen's car suffered minor damage, and she declined treatment on scene. The report said she was not injured.

Allen testified she later drove herself to an ER and was released with a prescription. Five days later she saw another doctor for some therapy sessions. Seven months later, she was referred to a spine center by her first attorney, Dan Rock. She had an initial exam in March of 2006, an MRI three months later and a follow-up exam in October.

Allen had several more accidents, according to the case file, including one in September of 2007 that totaled her vehicle. She served Pasco County with the lawsuit in the bus crash that same month, which the county moved to dismiss. For two years it wormed through the system and in December of 2009, Allen fired Rock.

Rock responded by filing a claim against future settlement money, which the court approved in March of 2010.

The county later offered Allen a settlement of $12,500 through her new lawyer, Robert Shuttera. When Allen didn't respond the case was set for trial.

But on April 1, 2012, Pasco County attorney Anthony Salzano got a call that Allen would accept $15,000 in lieu of trial. She did not object, Salzano said, when the settlement was announced in open court.

"I got busy with other cases and I got distracted," Salzano said. "I sent a release to agree on the money and dismiss the claim, and she never signed it."

Salzano said he realized Allen refused to sign when Geico insurance — which was a codefendant in the case — filed a motion for Allen to accept its own settlement. Allen missed that hearing, alleging she didn't receive the letters in time.

Salzano filed the same motion to get the settlement accepted.

Then Allen claimed her lawyer pushed her.

• • •

In a cramped and tense hearing Tuesday in Bray's chambers, Allen cross-examined her former lawyers.

She accused attorney Craig A. LeValley of pushing her into a chair.

"Ma'am," he said, "I've never pushed a client."

She reminded him of the circumstances that day.

"Ma'am," Bray asked Allen, "is that a question?"

She asked Shuttera about her own motives.

"I don't know your personal motivations," he said.

Bray reminded her numerous times not to argue with the witnesses.

They all denied her claims of verbal and physical attacks.

Shuttera, in addition to Rock and one other lawyer, have claims against the settlement money.

"I won't see a cent of it," Allen said.

Allen said she plans to investigate the lawyers involved and will take it up with the Florida Bar Association.

"Nothing happened that I didn't expect," she said.

Contact Jon Silman at (727) 869-6229, [email protected] or @Jonsilman1 on Twitter.

Judge orders woman to take $15,000, eight years after fender bender 08/23/13 [Last modified: Friday, August 23, 2013 7:14pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Florida education news: Working conditions, school choice, teacher housing and more

    Blogs

    WORK CONDITIONS: Two teachers at a Pinellas County middle school request transfers out, saying the campus has become "hostile and racially charged." The …

    Pinellas Park Middle School
  2. Forecast: Break out those sweaters, Tampa Bay, as cooler weather just a day away

    Weather

    Tampa Bay residents will finally be able to break out their sweaters and boots this week, but not until enduring yet another humid, rainy day to start the workweek.

    Tampa Bay's 7-day forecast. [WTSP]
  3. Justin Timberlake in Super Bowl halftime show for first time since 'wardrobe malfunction'

    Celebrities

    Justin Timberlake has finally been invited back to the Super Bowl halftime show, 14 years after the "wardrobe malfunction" with Janet Jackson caused a national controversy.

    Singer Janet Jackson covers her breast as Justin Timberlake holds part of her costume after her outfit came undone during the halftime show of Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston in 2004. The NFL announced Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017, that Timberlake will headline the Super Bowl halftime show Feb. 4 in Minnesota, 14 years after the "wardrobe malfunction" with Janet Jackson cause a national controversy. [Associated Press]
  4. Here's what happened when 30 high school sophomores gave up their phones for a day

    K12

    LUTZ — They were everywhere at Steinbrenner High School. Teens with panic-stricken faces, furiously slapping one thigh, then the other.

    Grace Hayes, 15, left, and Kai'Rey Lewis, 15, talk and text friends after having a discussion about smartphone technology in Tiffany Southwell's English Literature class at Steinbrenner High last week. Southwell asked theme to give up their phones for a day and write about it. For Lewis, the ride home that day "was the longest bus ride in my life." [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  5. Cuban media treats visit by Tampa City Council as historic event

    Politics

    TAMPA — Delegations of one kind or another have been traveling from Tampa to Cuba for years, even before President Barack Obama took steps to normalize relations between the two countries in December 2014.

    A Tampa delegation to Cuba this week was featured prominently in reports by the state-run media in Cuba, including Granma. From left are Tampa City Council vice chair Harry Cohen, St. Petersburg City Council Chair Darden Rice, Tampa philanthropist David Straz and Tampa City Council Chair Yolie Capin.