On November 15, 2015, 77-year-old Howard Brown was walking the family dog around his neighborhood in Paradise Valley, Arizona. On his way home, he attempted to cross Invergordon Road when he was hit by a car driven by 20-year-old Paige Dembow, who was driving to her father’s house in the same neighborhood. Mr. Brown was taken to the hospital, where he ultimately died from his injuries. Mr. Brown’s wife of 53 years and his three adult daughters filed a lawsuit against Paige Dembow alleging she was negligent in causing his death. They also sued Paige Dembow’s father, Paul Dembow, who was the vice-mayor of Paradise Valley, arguing that he continued to exercise fatherly control over his daughter as the head of her household, and that he had furnished the car to her which she would not otherwise have had. The Browns sought to hold Mr. Dembow vicariously liable for his daughter’s accident under Arizona’s Family Purpose Doctrine. Because Mr. Dembow also lived in the neighborhood and arrived on the scene immediately after the accident, the Browns also sued Mr. Dembow for negligent interference with the police investigation. This claim was dismissed by summary judgment prior to trial.
JSH attorneys Mike Halvorson and Erica Spurlock represented Mr. Dembow in the litigation. The parties called 19 witnesses, including experts, over the course of a three-week trial. The Brown family presented evidence that Paige Dembow was unreasonably traveling above the speed limit in a residential area surrounded by homes when she failed to observe Mr. Brown crossing the street in front of her car. Plaintiffs argued that Mr. Brown had safely traversed almost the entire width of street before the impact, meaning there was sufficient time and space for Paige Dembow to have seen and avoided hitting him. The Browns further argued that Mr. Dembow had continued to financially support and provide for his daughter, and he should be held liable for her negligent use of a vehicle they argued he furnished to her.
Paige Dembow presented evidence that Mr. Brown had stepped in front of her vehicle without looking, and at a distance that was impossible for her to avoid hitting him regardless of her speed. Mr. Dembow presented evidence showing his daughter was an emancipated adult living apart from the family home, and who obtained the vehicle on her own without his assistance.
The Browns each sought an award for their individual loss of consortium damages, as well as an additional $253,743.43 in medical bills and $5,361.22 in funeral costs. After less than an hour of deliberation, the jury returned a unanimous verdict in favor of both Paige and Paul Dembow as to all of Plaintiffs’ claims.
Mike Halvorson is an AV Preeminent rated attorney on Martindale-Hubbell who has been with JSH for over 19 years. As part of his practice, Mr. Halvorson has mediated, arbitrated and tried a wide variety cases largely focused on trucking and transportation, product liability, dram shop, motor vehicle and premises liability defense. In addition, Mike Co-Chairs the firm’s Transportation, Auto, Products and General Liability Trial Group, and he is a frequent presenter at industry seminars and conferences.
Erica Spurlock focuses her practice in the areas of automobile and commercial trucking defense, employment defense, and other personal injury, wrongful death and general liability defense.
About Jones, Skelton & Hochuli:
With more than 85 lawyers, Jones, Skelton & Hochuli, P.L.C. (JSH) is the largest and most experienced trial defense law firm in Arizona specializing in insurance and insurance coverage. Our lawyers focus their practice in the defense of corporations, self-insureds, government entities, insurance carriers and medical malpractice carriers. For additional information, please visit jshfirm.com or call 602.263.1700.