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Case Involving Accident That Killed Handicapped Child Settles for $13.65 Million

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Searcy Denney Law Firm Secures Substantial Payment for Family in Wrongful Death Suit

West Palm Beach, FL – April 13, 2009 – South Florida law firm Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley PA today announced a $13.65 million settlement on behalf of a Belleville, NJ family in a case involving the wrongful death of a handicapped child and serious injuries to four other family members. Searcy Denney attorney Greg Barnhart represented the family.

In Pena v. Drive-Master, Inc, et al, ESX-L-4529-0, plaintiffs Francisco Pena and his wife Karla Torres claimed that their 9-year old son, Marven Pena, burned to death on August 5, 2004 when the drive shaft in the family’s modified Ford Econoline van broke and tore a hole in the fuel tank, causing it to catch fire.

Marven’s 11-year old brother, their grandmother, their uncle, and Karla Torres were seriously burned. Only the driver escaped significant injury.

The van had been modified by Drive-Master Inc. of Fairview NJ with a motorized under vehicle wheelchair lift (UVL) and side swing cargo doors. The lawsuit claimed that Drive-Master installed an improperly sized drive shaft.  The modification of the original driveshaft was to allow clearance for the under vehicle lift, which was designed and manufactured by The Braun Company of Wilmac, Indiana. The suit claimed that the power doors failed to open, delaying the escape of the rear-seat passengers, because the designs of both the door system and an emergency manual bypass system were defective.

“This horrible tragedy was certainly preventable. It is a case of negligent error, pure and simple,” said Greg Barnhart. “The award represents some modicum of justice for this family even if nothing can ever make up for the loss these people have suffered.”

The Pena family was driving the van during a family trip to Florida when the accident occurred in Titusville, Florida. The settlement involved Drive-Master and The Braun Corporation as well as Hackettstown Ford, Inc. of Hackettstown, NJ, and undisclosed component part manufactures and suppliers.

The plaintiffs were represented by Alan Y. Medvin of Newark, N.J.’s Medvin & Elberg as well as Mr. Barnhart of Searcy Denney in West Palm Beach, Fl.

For more information, contact Joan Williams at (800) 780-8607 ext 131 or


About Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley, PA:

A nationally recognized trial law firm, Searcy Denney Scarola Barnhart & Shipley, P.A. is committed to protecting and vindicating the rights of people injured through negligence, deceit and abuse of power.  Over the past 45 years, the firm has represented clients in courtrooms throughout Florida and across the nation.

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"Every question that I had was answered in mere minutes and the follow through that the staff, secretaries and attorneys had was superior. I have dealt with many, many firms that have all disappointed me and Searcy Denney was by far the most thorough - I highly recommend them!"
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