Monday, November 13, 2006

Watch what you ask for

From the Winchester paper comes the following tale of the retrial of a wrongful death case, resulting in a sharply reduced verdict for the grieving widow:

Widow of motorcycle crash victim gets $1 for sorrow, nothing for economic losses

By Erica M. Bush
The Winchester Star

Winchester — The widow of a motorcycle accident victim will receive $1 for her sorrow and nothing for her economic losses, a jury decided on Thursday.

The Frederick County Circuit Court jury made its ruling in the retrial of a wrongful-death suit that had awarded $961,065 to the survivors of the crash victim.

Another jury previously found Minnick’s Auto Repair of Winchester liable for the July 25, 2004, death of 32-year-old Anthony Wright.


The wrongful-death lawsuit — filed by Wright’s widow, Christa — claimed that the Minnick’s tow truck driver, Bernard W. Everhart Jr., drove recklessly and backed into the road without looking for traffic, which caused Wright to crash after trying to avoid the truck.


On March 31, jurors in the first wrongful death trial awarded the plaintiffs — Christa and Anthony’s brother, Michael Wright — $10,534 for hospital expenses, $7,996 for funeral costs, and $942, 535 for the loss of income, services, protection, and care that had been provided by the victim.

A new trial was ordered after the jurors failed to award an amount to the plaintiffs for their sorrow.

Legally, the jurors should have awarded some amount, which could have been as low as $1.

On Thursday, the new jury awarded Christa $10,534 for hospital expenses and $7,996 for funeral expenses. She received $1 for her sorrow and nothing for her economic loss.

“They killed him and that’s it!” she said as she dropped to the floor screaming and crying in the hallway of the courthouse after the verdict was read.

Taking the stand on Thursday, Christa Wright fought back tears as she told the court she and her husband of 12 years were soulmates.


But James T. Bacon, the attorney for Minnick’s, argued that Anthony was separated from Christa at the time of the accident and that she should not profit from his death.

Witnesses testified that the couple were estranged at the time of the accident.


Bacon asked the court to award Christa $1 for her anguish and nothing for the loss of income.

He also said Christa was with a boyfriend at the time of the accident.

Christa admitted that she stayed with the man the defense described as her boyfriend after Anthony’s death, but said they were just friends.

She also admitted having an intimate relationship with Anthony’s brother, Michael, after her husband’s death.

Michael, who Plofchan called to the stand on Thursday, said his brother and Christa had mentioned going to see a divorce attorney, but had called it off.


In his closing arguments, Bacon asked the jurors not to award Christa the $1 million the prosecution was asking for. “The plaintiff would not have profited while her husband was alive, and she should not profit from his death,” he said.

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