An insurance company is suing a widow whose Uber driver husband was killed by a drunk multimillionaire in a speeding Lamborghini to make her pay back the estimated $1million settlement they gave her.
On September 21, 2016 J. Gerald Smith, 82, was hit by health club mogul Roger Wittenberns in a $354,000 mustard yellow Lamborghini in Delray Beach, Florida.
His widow Lisa Smith reached a confidential settlement with James River Insurance Company, which insured Gerald driving for Uber, as well as a undislosed financial deal with Wittenberns.
James River didn’t disclose the amount but said they paid out the driver policy limit of $1million, plus $250,000 on top of it, according to the Sun Sentinel.
Now James River is suing Lisa Smith claiming she’s obligated to return the money they gave her in their agreement because she reached another settlement with Wittenberns.
Lisa Smith (right) is being sued by James River Insurance Company, demanding she pay back a settlement believed to top $1million they awarded her after her Uber driver husband J. Gerald Smith (left) was killed by a drunk driver in September 2016
On September 21, 2016 J. Gerald Smith, 82, was hit by multimillionaire health club mogul Roger Wittenberns, 64, in Delray Beach, Florida in a $354,000 mustard yellow Lamborghini as Smith was driving for Uber. Wittenberns is pictured in court after pleading guilty to DUI manslaughter in November 2018
‘She was particularly upset when she was served by the lawsuit. It just brought back all of the emotions and anguish she experienced,’ Mariano Garcia, an attorney for Smith, said.
James River alleges Smith committed a breach of contract by keeping her deal with Wittenberns discreet and by not paying the insurance company back after she received the Wittenberns settlement.
Smith’s lawyers argue that James River was fully aware of Smith’s settlement with Wittenberns and was even involved in the terms of that agreement.
They further argue that James River agreed in writing to never pursue legal action against Smith.
‘There is no legal basis for any action against Smith in connection to the fatal collision that led to her husband’s death or any obligations she may have had under the policy of insurance,’ her attorney Juan C. Diaz Avila wrote on November 17, slamming the insurance company’s effort to wrangle back the money as ‘ill-conceived’ and ‘frivolous’.
In the devastating crash Wittenberns slammed into Gerald Smith’s silver Buick Enclave as he pulled out from a stop sign. The accident happened minutes after Wittenberns had drinks and lunch at a nearby restaurant. A view of the bashed up $354,000 mustard yellow Lamborghini Wittenberns was driving above
Cops pictured investigating the crash site after the September 2016 accident
Jaime Pozo, the lawyer for the insurance company, has not filed a response to Smith’s counsel’s arguments.
In the devastating crash Wittenberns slammed into Gerald Smith’s silver Buick Enclave as he pulled out from a stop sign.
The accident happened minutes after Wittenberns had drinks and lunch at a nearby restaurant.
Smith, a retired real estate agent, died from his injuries.
Less than two months later Smith’s widow filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Wittenberns and made a claim with the Uber insurance company for the limits of the driver policy, which is listed in court records as $1million.
James River and Smith’s agreement was confidential, but the company has indicated it paid out the limits plus $250,000 on top of it in February 2017.
Wittenberns and Smith then reached a undisclosed settlement in April 2017.
At the same time James River was suing Wittenberns trying to get back all the money they paid to the Smith estate. This action is a common insurance law practice called subrogation.
However, Wittenberns has fought against that case.
James River Insurance Company had sued Wittenberns years ago in a bid to get back the money they gave to Smith in her settlement, but he’s fought against it and now the insurance company has added Smith to the lawsuit. The James River Insurance Company’s office building in Richmond, Virginia above
Now more than three years later James River has added Smith to that same lawsuit against Wittenberns.
Peter Molk, a professor at the University of Florida who teaches insurance law, says it’s unusual for an insurer to sue one of its policyholders unless the client failed to inform the company about a settlement with a third party.
Wittenberns was convicted of DUI and was allowed to serve his two year prison sentence on hosue arrest with a GPS ankle monitor due to his health problems
‘This is one of those things that’s not supposed to happen. The insurance company is usually involved in those settlements between their policyholder and a third party,’ Molk said to the Sun Sentinel.
Now the litigation is before Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Glenn Kelley, who will rule on whether the case will go before a jury in the future.
Following the crash, Wittenberns, 64, was convicted of driving under the influence and took a plea deal where he was sentenced to two years in jail. But he was able to serve the time on house arrest with a GPS ankle monitor at his $2million Delray Beach estate due to his health problems and heart condition.
The punishment included 10 years of probation and a $20,000 check to the victim’s three sons, separate from the settlement.
‘Money can never give me back my husband. This man destroyed our life,’ Smith said following her husband’s death.
Two months ago, Wittenberns asked the court for permission to ‘buy out’ a requirement to serve 150 community service hours due to his ‘steadily declining health.’
The proposal asked him to pay $10 for each hour totaling $1,500.
However, Circuit Judge Kirk Volker denied the plan but approved of an alternate plan after he learned that Wittenberns requires leg surgery and nine months of recovery time.
Under the plan Wittenberns still needs to do the community service, but won’t have to start until October 15, 2021.