Volkswagen and Honeywell International Inc. have now settled with our clients Kevin and Cheryl Bullock. We wrote about the trial of their case in a previous issue. Mrs. Bullock was injured in a vehicle crash caused by an unintended acceleration in a VW vehicle. The settlement ends an appeal by the Defendants to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals. The companies had filed an appeal of the $5 million jury award in favor of the driver.
U.S. District Judge Clay D. Land had previously approved the jury award. The jury reduced the award from $8 million to $5 million after finding Honeywell and Volkswagen jointly liable for only 60 percent of the damages stemming from the crash. The companies had asked the appeals court for a limited remand of the case, saying the sides dispute whether a portion of the settlement amount should be set aside to reimburse Medicare for payments relating to Ms. Bullock’s future treatment after discovering she enrolled in the program. The motion said:
The parties’ review of Ms. Bullock’s medical records revealed that Medicare had made only one relevant payment to that point, and the parties agreed to a process for remitting that payment. After extended discussion and obtaining outside opinions from Medicare experts, however, the parties disagree about their legal responsibilities concerning any future payment of Medicare benefits.
The case, filed by Cheryl Bullock and her husband, Kevin, in February 2013 arises from her 2011 accident that caused numerous injuries to her, including fractured neck vertebrae and a head injury for which she will require a lifetime of care. The Volkswagen Passat rocketed out of control while Ms. Bullock traveled down a Georgia highway with her 5-year-old daughter. A leaky seal allowed oil to seep into the vehicle’s turbocharger, which Honeywell manufactured. The jury ruled for the Bullocks in September 2015, holding VW and Honeywell liable for a combined $4.8 million. The original award found VW liable for $7 million in damages and Honeywell responsible for $1 million, but the award was reduced because they were found to be less than 100 percent liable for the accident.
The Eleventh Circuit referred the parties to mediation, which took place in May, and the Defendants agreed to dismiss their appeals after Honeywell and VW paid the Bullocks a confidential amount. The court was asked for a limited remand back to Judge Lake to clear up a Medicare repayments conflict. Honeywell and VW are concerned that they or their insurers may be required to submit Ms. Bullock’s future Medicare payments under the Medicare Secondary Payer Act if the settlement does not require her to set aside part of the funds to satisfy future Medicare payments.
All parties agree that the issue requires a ruling based on facts not already presented in the case. We believe that it is important for Judge Land to rule on this dispute. Our understanding – from reading both state and federal case law and memoranda from the center that oversees Medicare and Medicaid – is that a Medicare set aside is not required in a personal injury accident where worker’s compensation is not involved.
The Bullocks are represented by Mike Andrews, Kendall Dunson and Greg Allen from our firm. The case is Cheryl Bullock, et al v. Volkswagen Group of America, et al. in the U.S. Court of Appeal for the Eleventh Circuit.
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