Jury awards 3.9 million dollars to family in civil suit over DUI crash

From the Chicago Tribune, story by Kimberly Hornek:

A jury awarded a $3.9 million verdict to an Oak Brook family and the daughter’s friend, who were injured in a 2011 crash with a drunken driver.

Jose D. Rodriguez, 29, of Cicero, in September 2012 pleaded guilty to three counts of aggravated DUI, the DuPage County state’s attorney’s office reported.

Rodriguez’s vehicle crossed into oncoming traffic on York Road on Nov. 12, 2011, and hit a vehicle driven by Margaret Bennett head-on near Robin Hood Ranch, the state’s attorney’s office reported.

Bennett, her young daughter and her daughter’s friend had gone out for ice cream after seeing a play at Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace, G. Grant Dixon III, the LaGrange attorney who represented the Bennetts, said in a statement this week.

After the crash, Rodriguez, Bennett, and the two girls had to be extricated from their vehicles and were taken to the hospital with serious injuries, the state’s attorney’s office reported.

An investigation revealed that Rodriguez’s blood alcohol content was at least 0.14 percent when he crashed, the state’s attorney’s office reported. The threshold by law is 0.08 percent.

Bennett’s right leg and ankle were crushed, among other injuries, Dixon said in his statement, adding that Bennett has undergone six surgeries so far.

The girls, too, suffered numerous injuries, including a skull fracture and bleeding in the brain, Dixon said.

The jury returned its verdict after a six-day trial in the Richard J. Daley Center in Chicago, Dixon said.

Whether Rodriguez will appeal, is “still under consideration,” said Clifford Panek, the attorney who represented Rodriguez. “This is just the first stage,” he said.

“I think the verdict was reasonable,” Panek said. But it is unlikely Rodriquez, who is serving an eight-year sentence in prison for the crime, will be able to pay the amount awarded in the verdict, Panek said.

Dixon said in his statement that he anticipates the victims will file additional litigation against Rodriguez’s insurance company, Unique Insurance in Niles.

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