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On the evening of June 19th, 2013, Irene Cepeda was tragically killed while trying to cross the street. On the night of the tragic accident, the mother of three had just finished shopping at Walmart and was crossing Phillips Highway near Reba Avenue when she was hit and killed. A quick look at the circumstances surrounding her death could lead someone to say she was to blame for her own death, however, Coker Law partner Matthew Posgay believed there was more to the story.
Coker Law knew that Irene’s sons deserved to have justice for their mother. Posgay sent a public records request to the City of Jacksonville and the Florida Department of Transportation, revealing that prior to building the store, the City of Jacksonville required Walmart to provide safe paths for pedestrians to enter and exit the property. Also, the Florida Department of Transportation required a traffic signal and crosswalk be placed in the middle of Walmart’s property, which would allow people to cross from the east side of Phillips Highway to the store safely.
Unfortunately, Walmart refused to build the traffic signal and crosswalk because of the cost to purchase the land on the east side of Phillips Highway. The FDOT offered Walmart a second option: build a traffic signal and crosswalk at both the north and south end of the property, near Reba Avenue.
Although Walmart admitted that building a traffic signal and crosswalk at two locations would provide a safe path for people to cross Phillips Highway and shop at the store, they convinced the FDOT to allow them to build the traffic signal and crosswalk only at the north end of the property before the store opened for business. Walmart told the FDOT they would perform a traffic study at the Reba Avenue location after the store opened to see whether a traffic signal and crosswalk would still be needed.
The traffic study was completed after the store opened but never analyzed pedestrian safety. After an extensive review of the documents, Posgay discovered Walmart never analyzed pedestrian safety at any time before or after the store opened for business. Walmart never did what the City of Jacksonville and the FDOT required them to do to make it safe for people in the community to shop at the super center.
The traffic signal and crosswalk that was present only at the north end of the property required pedestrians to cross at the Gator Lodge, an area known for crime. Irene had been accosted by people at the Gator Lodge when using the crosswalk in the past. Fearing for her safety she chose to avoid them and crossed the street at another location the night she died.
Most attorneys and law firms would not have pursued this case due to the initial facts regarding Irene’s tragic death. Through the diligence and determination of the team at Coker Law, Posgay was able to pursue a case against Walmart and uncover facts regarding why a traffic signal and crosswalk were not built at Reba Avenue. Coker Law believes the perseverance of Jemmie Williams, Irene’s son, contributed to the FDOT publicly acknowledging a traffic signal and crosswalk will now be built at Reba Avenue.
“Attorneys do not always have an opportunity to change the lives of many people, through their work on one case. Fortunately, this was one of those cases,” said attorney Matthew Posgay. “Pedestrians will be able to safely cross Phillips Highway at Reba Avenue in the future, as the FDOT has now approved the construction of a traffic signal and crosswalk at that location. I believe this approval would not have occurred without Jemmie Williams giving me the opportunity to fight for justice on behalf of his mother.”
Case Title: Jemmie Williams, as Personal Representative of the Estate of Irene Brooks Cepeda v Wal-Mart Stores East, LP
Key Staff Involved in the Case: Denora Buben (Legal Assistant), Kim Heine (Paralegal), and Walt Brozowski (Firm Investigator)
Date of Resolution: Amicably resolved in April 2019
Amount of Settlement or Jury Verdict: Confidential
Speak with an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney
If you are injured by a negligent driver, whether you were in a vehicle, on a bike, or as a pedestrian, you want to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney. You may qualify to receive compensation for your medical bills, your past and future pain and suffering, disability, disfigurement, lost wages, and other expenses related to your injuries. To speak with attorney Matthew Posgay or another Coker Law attorney, or for more information, call (904) 299-0808 or click here to schedule a free consultation.