$3.5M Jury Award With Punitive Damages for Newport News, VA Drunk Driving Victim | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

What Happened

Our Virginia car accident injury client was a middle school teacher who suffered irreversible brain damage and incurred physical disabilities when a drunk driver hit her car head-on in Newport News, VA.

Jennifer Rios was driving home along Lucas Creek Road on June 8, 2011, when the intoxicated man behind the wheel of the other vehicle crossed the double yellow line and collided with her. Rios went to the hospital with multiple broken bones, a collapsed lung, traumatic pancreatitis, internal bleeding, hemorrhagic shock, and respiratory failure.

The massive bleeding and extended period when oxygen stopped flowing to her brain left Rios with significant intellectual limitations. She also needed 16 surgeries to repair her physical injuries, and she could not walk for three months following the drunk driving accident.

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Key Legal Strategy

Our Virginia car accident injury client clearly had her life turned upside down by the reckless drunk driver and deserved maximum compensation. Ensuring that Rios could hold the intoxicated man fully accountable required going to a civil jury trial to press punitive damage claims.

In court, her personal injury attorney presented convincing evidence of the other driver’s fault and impairment by alcohol. Reports from police who found an empty vodka bottle in the man’s car and obtained a blood alcohol concentration measurement of .09 two hours after the crash were especially strong.

Jurors deliberated for less than an hour before returning a verdict of $2.5 million in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages for our client. The lawyer who partnered with a co-counsel to secure this outcome, Ed Booth, spent many more months working to enforce the full punitive damages award because a Virginia law limits noncompensatory damages.

“Our client wanted a trial,” Booth said shortly after the trial. “She didn’t want to settle, and she didn’t want to negotiate. She simply wanted her day in court, to have a jury of seven people from her community decide the case.”

Booth has since moved on to another law firm, but we continue fighting to remove the cap on punitive damages awards.

Court: Newport News Circuit Court, Newport News, VA