Year in review: the largest jury verdicts of 2010 (PDF version)
By Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly
Silverio v.Gentile, et al.
Norfolk Superior Court
Date of verdict: July 23, 2010
Plaintiff’s attorneys: Brian P. Burke,
Worcester; and Howard S. Goldman,
Goldman, Goldman & Pease, Needham
Status of verdict: On appeal
On an early December morning in2006,two brothers from Needham were on their way to a coffee shop when an SUV traveling in the opposite direction crossed the center line and hit their vehicle head-on, causing a horrific crash for which the Jaws of Life were required to extract the victims.
The driver, Douglas Homsi, suffered fractures and internal injuries so extensive they later triggered a stroke that left him unable to speak. Joseph Homsi, the passenger, suffered a broken sternum and ribs, as well as internal injuries.
For plaintiff’s attorneys Brian P. Burke and Howard S.Goldman, the target in the quest to obtain the funds necessary to provide the lifelong medical care Douglas would require was not the operator of the SUV, but the car’s owners: the driver’s grandparents.
Burke and Goldman presented evidence that Lydia and Vittorio Gentile repeatedly allowed their grandson Vittorio to use their vehicle— including during the 48 hours leading up to the crash — despite the fact that they previously had removed him from their insurance policy due to his lengthy driving rap sheet.
Like most cases in which a driver causes harm using someone else’s car, the case would be won or lost on the issue of whether the vehicle’s owners consented to its use.
“We needed to show the grandparents knew of his terrible driving record and failed to take any steps to keep him from using the car or to stop him,” Goldman said. “The jury did not believe the grandparents.”
For Burke, the case served to re-affirm his respect for career plaintiffs’ counsel. “I was a defense attorney for over 12 years. I always said the plaintiff’s role was tougher. I just never realized how much tougher,” he said.—