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12 Apr 2013

Trayvon Martin’s parents settle wrongful-death claim

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April 12, 2013 Category: Week In Review Posted by:

ABOVE PHOTO: Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton.

(AP photo)


Homeowners association is thought to have paid more than $1 million


By Rene Stutzman

Orlando Sentinel


SANFORD — Trayvon Martin’s parents have settled a wrongful-death claim for an amount thought to be more than $1 million against the homeowners association of the Sanford subdivision where their teenage son was killed.


Their attorney, Benjamin Crump, filed that paperwork at the Seminole County Courthouse, a portion of which was made public Friday.


In the five pages of the settlement that were available for public review, the settlement amount had been marked out. Lower in the agreement, the parties specified that they would keep that amount confidential.


When asked during an earlier interview whether the amount was more than $1 million, Crump said: “I have no comment on that subject … I know you did not get that from me.”


Trayvon was shot to death by Neighborhood Watch volunteer George Zimmerman at the Retreat at Twin Lakes townhomes in Sanford on Feb. 26, 2012. Zimmerman served as head of the Neighborhood Watch and called police that evening, describing Trayvon as suspicious. He has said the teen attacked him and he fired in self-defense.


The community-association manager, Kent Taylor, did not return phone calls from the Orlando Sentinel about the settlement. Neither did its attorney, Thomas R. Slaten Jr.


Robert Taylor is founding partner of Taylor & Carls P.A., a law firm that represents homeowner associations but has no connection to the Retreat at Twin Lakes.


“When claims are filed, they’re filed against anybody who could possibly have any culpability,” he said. Trayvon’s parents must have concluded that Zimmerman’s homeowners association did, he said, thus the claim.


In the settlement, the association did not admit any wrongdoing or liability. Taylor said its decision to settle was most likely a business decision.


“It’s really nothing more than a risk-versus-reward analysis,” Taylor said.


The association’s insurer, Travelers Casualty and Surety Co. of America, filed suit in federal court in August, asking a judge to clarify its liability in the case, but that suit was dropped in November.


“Travelers is not a party to the settlement,” the company said in a prepared statement. “The settlement would have been with other insurers of the homeowners association and/or the property managers.”


The policy had a $1 million limit, according to federal-court records, and went into effect March 30, 2012, a few weeks after Trayvon was shot. Trayvon’s mother filed a claim with the insurer after it went into effect, according to federal-court records.


During an interview in February, Zimmerman’s attorney, Mark O’Mara, said Trayvon’s parents had tried to settle through mediation and the association or its insurer had offered $1 million, but Trayvon’s parents had rejected that amount.


O’Mara said the two parties then renewed talks and agreed to settle several months ago.


The portion of the settlement made public Friday had been edited to eliminate the names of the parties and people making payment.


“It is understood and agreed that the payment made herein is not to be construed as an admission of any liability by or on behalf of the releasing parties; but instead the monies being paid hereunder is consideration for avoiding litigation, the uncertainties stemming from litigation as well as to protect and secure the good name and good will of the released parties,” the settlement said.


Under the terms of the settlement, Trayvon’s parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, and his estate agreed to set aside their wrongful-death claim and claims for pain and suffering, loss of earnings and expenses.


Crump has made clear that he intends to file suit later against Zimmerman, and the settlement spelled out that Zimmerman was not part of this deal.


Crump provided a copy of the settlement to O’Mara’s office, that of Special Prosecutor Angela Corey and the judge Thursday, according to a cover page attached to the settlement that was placed in Zimmerman’s criminal-case file. It was not immediately clear whether in those versions the settlement amount was blacked out as well.

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