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Parents win civil case in son’s death, defendant still on the lam

A Florida-Dade jury has awarded more than $15 million to the parents of a young Palm Beach County man who was killed, along with four other people, in an a 2011 accident. Although this family’s wrongful death civil action has ended, the driver accused of causing the fatal collision on Interstate 95 has not been captured.

The crash occurred in the early morning of March 5, 2011, when the fugitive allegedly hit a group of people who were on the shoulder of I-95. They had pulled over at Northwest 103rd Street and were waiting for law enforcement to arrive after being involved in a chain reaction of minor auto accidents. The Florida Highway Patrol says that the driver of the car that hit the motorists was traveling in the express lane when he swerved off the highway, hit a concrete barrier, and then ran into the people gathered on the shoulder.

The 26-year-old driver reportedly had a 0.127 blood alcohol content level, more than three times the legal limit, several hours after he hit the plaintiff’s 23-year-old son, a graduate of the University of Florida, as well as four other people. He reportedly told the FHP that he had been at a club drinking earlier. All but one of the victims died immediately. The fifth was taken to the hospital, where she died just hours later. The driver was also hospitalized, but sometime later, he “vanished.”

The young man is facing charges of vehicular homicide and DUI manslaughter for each of the five people killed. If authorities can locate him and he is found guilty, he could serve as many as 75 years behind bars. The defendant, who was training to be a real estate appraiser, does not appear to have a previous criminal record. It was not reported whether authorities have been searching for him in Nicaragua, where his family is from. His mother said under oath that she does not know where he is.

The plaintiffs’ lawyer noted that although the defendant remains on the run, he “couldn’t run away from the civil justice system.” The other side was represented by an lawyer for the defendant’s insurance company. This case shows that even when the criminal justice system is not able to hold an accused person accountable for his or her actions, that person can be held liable in civil court, and the victim’s family can find some justice.

Source: The Florida Herald, “Florida-Dade jury awards $15 million to family in quintuple-death traffic death” David Ovalle, Dec. 13, 2013

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