After four years of advocacy, our team at Caputo & Van Der Walde LLP has won justice for a bereaved North Valley family in the form of a $40 million verdict against the owner of Lodi Parachute Center. CBS reported that, since the 1980s, the skydiving facility has been linked to about 20 deaths, among whom is our clients’ son Tyler Turner.
Tyler was an 18-year-old student at UC Merced who aspired to become a biomedical engineer. As his mother Francine recounted to ABC, on the day of his death in 2016, Tyler “knelt on the tarmac to say his prayers, embraced her, and told her he loved her before getting on the plane.” The instructor he jumped with that day turned out to have forged papers and was not, in fact, certified.
When the jump ended in Tyler’s wrongful death, the facility did not halt the day’s operations. The owner of the facility, William Dause, refused to shut down and told Francine, who had just lost her son, “You don't see them shut the freeway down when there's an accident.”
Attorney Paul Van Der Walde spearheaded the litigation against Dause. Before a San Joaquin Superior Court judge, he brought forth evidence showing that Dause was in the practice of creating new corporations to avoid liabilities, which his unsafe practices inevitably incurred.
“He carries no insurance, undercapitalized,” Attorney Van Der Walde told ABC. “He creates organizations to avoid liability and makes this a complex litigation. This also follows him around, and it is my intention to not rest if he keeps creating new corporations.”
To keep their son’s memory alive, the Turners are working to set up a long-term scholarship program in Tyler’s name to help students who share his dreams of breaking into the field of biomedical engineering.
What’s more, Francine fought at the Capitol to pass Tyler’s Law, legislation that makes skydiving center operators legally responsible for verifying that all instructors at their centers are correctly certified and that all parachutes are properly packed. If an operator is found to be noncompliant, families now have the right to sue.
The fight for justice is far from over, as Attorney Van Der Walde has reason to believe that Dause is already running a new skydiving business under a different name. As he told ABC, he plans to go after that business as well to prevent another family from being touched by tragedy.
About Caputo & Van Der Walde LLP
Our San Jose firm was established to help injured families hold negligent parties accountable. We have won myriad multi-million-dollar judgments and settlements in addition to the verdict we achieved for the Turners, earning us much acclaim and the confidence of our clients. With our high success rate, you can rest assured that, should you work with our firm, your case will be in experienced hands.
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