A jury deliberated less than an hour before ordering Christopher Marcone to pay $330 million in damages to Angela Stone after he killed her 13-year-old daughter while driving drunk. The Florida state court verdict includes $55 million in compensatory damages and $275 million in punitive damages. It’s one of the largest DUI verdicts ever.
Steve Yerrid, attorney for Stone, said that the verdict wasn’t about the money; it was intended to send a message.
“We wanted to send a message,” Yerrid said. “The mother’s intent was to spare anyone from experiencing the horrific experience of burying their own child.”
Stone will most likely not collect any of the punitive damages from the driver, but she will receive some of the compensatory damages because of a pre-trial agreement with the driver and his insurance company.
Stone also has a wrongful death suit pending against Kia Motors, claiming that defective seatbelts contributed to her daughter’s death. Yerrid says he expects a large award in this case, and Kia will be able to pay.
Stone’s daughter, Shelby Hagman, was killed when a pickup truck driven by Marcone ran a stop sign and crashed into the right side of the Kia Sedona van driven by Hagman’s grandparents. The grandparents survived, but Hagman suffered significant head injuries. Life support was cut off the next day when her family learned that there was no chance for recovery.
Marcone, 27, pleaded guilty to DUI manslaughter, and he is currently serving a 13-year sentence.
Brian Reynolds, attorney for Marcone, did not offer much of a defense at the trial.
“He told the jury he didn’t want to waste their time,” Yerrid said. “I told the jury, ‘In fact, there is no defense in this case to put up.’ [Marcone] went through a stop sign at 60 miles an hour.’”
Yerrid said that the wrongful death case against Kia will be substantial: “There was a lot of movement in her body. Her torso was not restrained the way it should have been… What we found in preparing this case is that it was a secondary impact that killed this young girl. Had this restraint system worked properly, she would not have sustained any injury to her head.”
During the trial against Marcone, Yerrid showed a video of Shelby’s entire life, from baby to preteen, including footage of her funeral. The jury consisted of six women, and Yerrid told the women to voice their outrage over drunk driving with the verdict.
“What I said was, it’s not so much that the laws had failed, or that there weren’t adequate laws, but that there comes a time in America when people have to understand that the jury system is critical,” said Yerrid. “It’s time to stand up and supplement the law by sending a message that we as a society will not allow unsafe things to occur… I said to them, ‘We already know what happened. What are you going to do about it?’”
If you or a loved one has been injured by a drunk driver, contact a Georgia drunk driver victim lawyer as soon as possible. In Georgia, victims may also be able to sue the liquor store, bar, or restaurant that served the drunk driver. Call MLN Law at 404-531-9700 to schedule a free consultation.