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Tragic Drunk Driving Crash Leads to Nearly $50 Million Verdict

What Happened:

A recent personal injury case in Florida involving a drunk teenage driver ended in a $47.5 million jury award for the innocent motorcyclist who was hit head-on.

The case is different than most because the entire trial only revolved around damages, not liability. Typically the bulk of a personal injury case would be spent trying to show how someone else was responsible for the harm caused to another person. In this case, the plaintiff’s attorneys were able to settle the issue of liability in a motion for summary judgment prior to trial. The reason is that in Florida there is a special law that holds adults responsible for the repercussions of an intoxicated child’s actions if they provided the child alcohol.

In this case, a group of four adults decided to throw a Halloween party to promote their new online gaming site. The party was heavily advertised on Facebook and MySpace and invitations were sent to high school students, including Brian Waught and Thomas Grutter. The two arrived at the party and got drunk off of what the hosts described in the invitation as “unlimited alcohol.” The two then piled into a car and, not long after leaving, drifted across the median and smashed directly into the motorcycle being driven by Stephen Davis. Police were never able to determine which teen was driving that night and which was passed out in the back seat, though this did not prevent Davis from recovering substantial damages.

The all-female jury heard testimony of the horrible injuries suffered by Davis following the crash, about how the accident sent him flying into the air and skidding across pavement, breaking 26 bones along the way. The man’s jaw was shattered, his hipbone was protruding from his skin, his wrists were broken in multiple places and he suffered a collapsed lung. Worst of all, severe pelvic injuries crushed his testicles, rendering him infertile at the age of 21. 

Davis’ recovery was grueling. He was totally dependent on his mother, requiring her help with everything from eating to bathing. The loss of his testicles also resulted in a huge drop in testosterone levels, requiring lifelong hormone injections. Even with the artificial testosterone, the pelvic damage he sustained makes sexual intercourse difficult if not impossible due to the pain involved. Davis has unsurprisingly had a hard time coping with the changes he has been forced to face and is also suffering from severe depression.

Testimony from doctors and the motorcyclist’s mother had some jurors in tears and lead to a resounding verdict against the irresponsible men who held the Halloween party. The jury ultimately decided on $40 million in noneconomic damages and another $7.5 million for medical bills and lost wages. Though the amount will surely exceed insurance coverage, Davis’ attorney says he will pursue the men’s homeowner’s policies as well as the insurers themselves for initially denying Davis’ claims.

The Virginia Injury Attorney’s Perspective:

Our hearts go out to Mr. Davis and his family, such a terrible accident will take years to come to grips with regardless of any monetary award. Sadly, such accidents are far from rare as motorcycle crashes claim thousands of lives each year. According to the Centers for Disease Control, between 2001 and 2008, more than 34,000 motorcyclists were killed on the nation’s roadways. 

During that same time an estimated 1,222,000 persons were treated in emergency departments for non-fatal motorcycle-related injuries. Statistics show that injured riders commonly are left with head and neck injuries, sometimes resulting in severe brain trauma or paralysis, especially in instances, like this one, where riders were thrown from their motorcycle.  

Potentially Helpful Information: 

If you lost a family member in a terrible Virginia car, motorcycle or truck wreck caused by another driver, it’s critical that you turn to an experienced attorney for help. My firm has successfully represented clients injured in such motorcycle wrecks before. In one case, my firm was able to secure a $450,000 award for a client who was injured in an accident while riding his Harley to a nearby convenience store.

If your or a loved one has been seriously injured in a Virginia (VA) motorcycle accident or in a motorcycle accident in a neighboring state and you want to learn more about your legal rights and possible options for pursing a claim against the responsible party, read through my firm’s car accident injury guide, which provides some important information about such claims

Have Questions? Check out our FAQs

If you were recently injured in a Virginia car, motorcycle or truck accident and are not sure how to move forward, it might be helpful to check out my firm’s answers to some frequently asked questions regarding car accident claims. For instance, you may be wondering what types of damages an injured person can recover or how you can go about calculating and recovering money for lost wages. For these answers and more, read my firm’s Virginia car accident FAQs.

Here's a video discussing a successful motorcylce accident case handled by one of the attorney's at our firm:


Richard N. Shapiro
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Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Lawyer Serving Va Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake & all of Virginia
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