201401.10
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Estates of Victims Receive Compensation for Death due to Drunken Driving

The estates of two young adults are to receive compensation for death due to drunken driving, along with two others who survived the accident, after a hearing in Pittsburgh.

A jury at the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas heard how, on September 26 2009, Amanda Delval (22) was driving along Mifflin Road in Pittsburgh when her car was in collision with another driven by Timothy Lesko; who had crashed into Amanda´s car after crossing the center line at a speed of 70mph.

Amanda suffered a back injury as a result of the accident; but her three passengers were more seriously injured – Michael Trail (20) broke one femur and Michael´s sister – Jessica (24) – was killed in the accident, while William Grice (26) suffered two fractured femurs and died from an overdose of pain medication in April 2010.

Police attending the scene recoded that Lesko had a blood alcohol level of .226 percent due to having just left a “Gun Bash” hosted by Pittsburgh Lodge No. 11 Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks at which he had consumed at least ten beers. He was given a prison sentence after being found guilty of driving under the influence and motor vehicle homicide.

The estates of William Grice and Jessica Trail made a claim for compensation for death due to drunken driving, and the action was joined by Michael Trail and Amanda Delval as co-plaintiffs. The action also alleged that the Protective Order of Elks were negligent as there had been no alcohol safety training in breach of the Dram Act and that organizers of the “all you can drink” event should have prevented Lesko from driving after he had been allowed to serve himself from an unmonitored beer station.

Lawyers representing the Protective Order of Elks contested the Order´s liability, and introduced twenty witnesses into the proceedings who testified that Lesko displayed no signs of being intoxicated at the event. They argued that the Order could not have foreseen that the accident was likely to happen, that William Grice´s death was unconnected with the accident and that any compensation for death due to drunken driving should take into account that Jessica Trail was a waitress who earned less than $8,000 per year.

Lawyers for the four plaintiffs argued that none of the witnesses that testified to Lesko´s state of intoxication knew Lesko, and produced a relative who testified that Lesko was slurring his speech and staggering before getting into his car.

After the hearing which lasted three weeks, the Allegheny jury deliberated for two days and found that the Protective Order of Elks supply of unlimited alcohol to Lesko was a contributory factor to the accident occurring. They also found that William Grice´s death was accidental and that his estate was entitled to compensation for death due to drunken driving.

The jury considered that the Protective Order of Elks were allocated 40% liable for the accident, and awarded the four plaintiffs a total of $18.1 million compensation – with the estates of William Grice and Jessica Trail receiving $8.8 million and $7.8 million respectively, while Michael Tate was awarded $1.1 million and Amanda Delval $400,000 for their injuries in the fatal accident.