A civil jury awarded $409 million to the parents four-year-old child who died in a traffic crash. The Bossier Parish, Louisiana jury received evidence showing a truck driver ran a red light and crashed into the mother’s vehicle. The parents of Katie Grantham sued the driver and his employer, Stuart Petroleum Testers. The parents alleged the truck driver was impaired by drug use and his employer should have known the driver was a careless and reckless driver. The surviving mother also suffered severe injuries in the crash.
Tragedy Creates a New Law
This tragic crash led to the 2019 enactment of “Katie Bug’s Law.” This law requires all drivers in crashes causing serious injuries to take a drug test. The law is named after the little girl’s nickname. The facts surrounding the post-crash investigation inspired this new law.
Truck Driver Refuses Drug Test
The truck driver who ran the red light refused to take a post-accident drug test. The DA concluded the evidence insufficient to warrant a vehicular or negligent homicide charge. Louisiana State Police failed to test for the presence of drugs or alcohol. Law enforcement cited him with failure to stop for a red light. The Court sentenced him to serve 10 days in jail on weekends.
The $409 million verdict included an award for exemplary damages for driving while intoxicated. Louisiana law provides for the award of additional damages if a defendant drive is intoxicated:
In addition to general and special damages, exemplary damages may be awarded upon proof that the injuries on which the action is based were caused by a wanton or reckless disregard for the rights and safety of others by a defendant whose intoxication while operating a motor vehicle was a cause in fact of the resulting injuries. La.Civ. Code 2315.4
Many states call these additional damages punitive damages because they are designed to punish the wrongdoer and discourage similar behavior in the community.
Evidence at Trial of Intoxication
To recover exemplary damages, the parents of Katie must prove to recover exemplary damages the defendant drive was intoxicated. Some of this proof included:
- trace amounts of methamphetamine in a plastic bag found in the truck driver’s lunch box.
- The truck driver admitting to a direct supervisor he had drugs in his system at the time of the wreck: “He said I can’t take a drug test because I’ve got drugs in my system.”
- Deposition testimony about the truck driver’s frequent drug use.
- Eyewitness testimony that she saw the truck driver driving reckless before going through the red light.
Employer Liable for Drunk Truck Driver
The law holds employers liable for the acts of their employees during the course and scope of their duties. This includes driving a company vehicle. Plaintiffs offered evidence that the employer and owner of the truck should have known a previous employer fired the driver for failing a drug test a few months before they hired him. The driver also previously refused a random drug test and resigned.
How to Win a Jury Verdict?
When someone wrongfully causes a wrongful death or serious injury, the victims must act right away to hire an experienced lawyer to perform an investigation. Gathering evidence to prove the case in court requires an experienced trial lawyer, one who knows what jury’s need to award large damage verdicts like this one. Therefore, if you are seriously injured or a family member is tragically killed by someone acting negligently, hire an experienced lawyer right away.