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Passenger should have known driver was drunk, defense alleges – $125,000 Verdict

Plaintiff, a 19-year-old student, was a passenger in the back seat of defendant’s vehicle. Defendant and another passenger had been drinking prior to picking up the plaintiff.

Defendant drove 15 or more miles on back roads to pick up the plaintiff and drove back without any problems. Defendant stopped and got gas just prior to the accident. Defendant lost control of his vehicle on double-lane highway and crashed into telephone pole.

He ran from the scene of the accident and was found by state trooper that morning approximately four to five hours after the accident. Defendant had a blood alcohol content of 0.07 percent
according to a field breath test.

The defense contended that plaintiff was contributorily negligent because he should have known defendant was impaired. Defendant called a forensic expert, who testified that the defendant would have had a BAC of 0.13 to 0.15 percent at the time of the accident, and would have been obviously intoxicated. Plaintiff had no memory of the accident due to a head injury. In addition, plaintiff suffered multiple pelvic fractures, and a sprained neck and wrist.


Type of action: Personal injury – automobile accident
Injuries alleged: Plaintiff suffered concussion with memory loss, sprained neck and wrist and five pelvic fractures
Name of case: Crane v. Burton
Court: Danville Circuit Court
Case no.: CL08000422-00
Tried before: Jury
Judge: David A. Melesco
Date: Feb. 18, 2011
Special damages: $40,000 in medical bills
Demand: $150,000
Offer: A high/low of $30,000/$200,000 was in place at trial
Verdict or settlement: Verdict
Amount: $125,000 (plus interest from date of accident)
Attorney for plaintiff: Robert H. Whitt Jr., Danville
Attorneys for defendant: Robyn L. Neal, Norfolk; Henry S. Carter, Richmond
Insurance carriers: Nationwide (liability); Hanover (UIM)

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