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Judge cuts record verdict, sanctions lawyer

A Charlottesville judge cut a husband’s wrongful death verdict by two thirds and ordered sanctions against the plaintiff and his lawyer in the aftermath of a hotly contested trial that produced a record overall jury award.

A 32-page order from Circuit Court Judge Edward Hogshire also refers Charlottesville lawyer Matthew Murray to the Virginia State Bar for three separate findings of wrongdoing, and refers his client to the local prosecutor for consideration of a perjury charge.

Hogshire found the jury’s $6,227,000 award to the husband for his wife’s death in a 2007 collision with a concrete truck was “grossly disproportionate” to the $2 million awarded to the woman’s parents. The judge cut the husband’s award to just $2.1 million

A September hearing is set for the judge to consider the amount of sanctions to be paid by Murray and his client, Isaiah Lester. Hogshire also will consider whether to hold Murray’s former law firm, Richmond-based Allen, Allen, Allen & Allen, liable for Murray’s actions in the case.

Even the defense attorney comes in for criticism in Hogshire’s order. The judge suggests the lawyer’s misguided focus on liability and the plaintiff’s character issues allowed Murray to inflame the jury with inappropriate theatrics.

The Charlottesville jury returned verdicts totaling $10.577 million at the end of trial in December. Lester, the husband of the woman fatally injured in the accident, won awards for both the death of his wife and for his own injuries in the wreck.

By Peter Vieth

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