201512.15
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Family Awarded $32 Million Compensation for Son´s Death in Car Crash

The family of a child killed by a speeding driver in his father´s disabled car has been awarded $32 million compensation for their son´s death in a car crash.

On May 1, 2012, Thomas Straw was driving along Route 28 near Aspinwall in Pennsylvania, when the hood of his Pontiac Vibe malfunctioned and released upwards. Thomas stopped the car in the center travel lane, with open lanes on either side of the vehicle.

Suddenly a Ford pick-up driven by Kirk Fair crashed into the back of the disabled Pontiac, sending both vehicles off the road and into the median. Thomas, his wife Jennifer and their four-year-old son were badly injured in the accident. Tragically, their six-year-old son Elijah died shortly after the accident at the Children´s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.

An investigation into the accident found that Fair had been travelling at 71 mph in a 55-mph zone but should have had 20 seconds and more than 2,000 feet to react to a stationary vehicle in the middle lane. Fair´s failure to react until 0.6 seconds before impact was attributed to his use of Suboxone – a drug used to treat opioid addiction that can cause drowsiness.

Fair pleaded guilty to homicide by vehicle, three counts of aggravated assault by vehicle and four counts of recklessly endangering another person, among other charges. He was sentenced to six to 23 months’ imprisonment and 10 years’ probation; following which the Straw family claimed compensation for their son´s death in a car crash against Fair and the employer for whom he was working at the time – Golon Masonry.

At the hearing to assess damages, the jury was told that Golon Masonry had employed Fair and given him a company vehicle to drive despite a criminal record check showing that Fair had been charged with DUI in 1996 and 2008, and his license was still suspended from the latest conviction. The defense argued that the manufacturer of the Straw´s Pontiac should also be considered liable and attempted to introduce testimony from automotive repair facilities.

After six days of testimonies, the jury took just two hours to award the Straw family $32 million compensation for their son´s death in a car crash. $20 million of the award was directly for Elijah´s wrongful death, $3 million was awarded to each Thomas and Jennifer for their injuries and emotional distress, while Elijah´s younger brother, Rowan, was awarded $6 million – $4 million of which was for his past and future emotional distress.