The Supreme Court of Virginia has reinstated a $100,000 punitive damages award, which had previously been reduced to $50,000 by a trial judge, for two plaintiffs injured by a drunk driver who was also talking on a cellphone, reports Virginia Lawyers Weekly.
Plaintiffs Victoria Coalson and Michael Stemke suffered minor injuries in the the auto-accident, and the jury awarded them $5,600 and $14,000 respectively, plus $100,000 each in punitive damages awards. However, the trial judge, Fairfax Circuit Judge Bruce D. White, reduced Coalson’s punitive damage to $50,000 because the 1:17.86 ratio between the compensatory and punitive damages given to Coalson was too high.
The Supreme Court of Virginia has reinstated the $100,000 award, however, after taking into consideration the defendant’s history of misconduct that includes a history of drunk driving and a record of many hours of drinking before the crash. They ruled that the judge made an error in halving the punitive damage award, and given the defendant’s history, said that the $100K award did nothing to “shock the conscience.”
The defendant, Victor Canchola, was convicted six times of DWI and once for driving on a suspended license between 1991 and 1997. He was again convicted of DWI in California in 2004. In the accident involving Victoria Coalson and Michael Stemke, Canchola did not have a license and was driving with a BAC (blood alcohol content) of twice the legal limit. According to reports, he had been drinking champagne, vodka and beer at various pubs throughout the day, driving from one to the other with his girlfriend.
Canchola ignored a police officer’s warning early in the day not to drive, and switched seats with his girlfriend to try and conceal his impaired driving. After the crash, he fled the scene and tried to persuade his girlfriend to say that it was she who crashed the car.
Justice is served.
The Parrish Law Firm drunk driving injury attorney works with northern Virginia residents who have been injured by drunk or drugged drivers and who are looking for fair compensation. Contact us today for a free case consultation, or call us at 703-906-4229.
A representative of the Parrish Law Firm, PLLC researched and wrote this article with Mr. Parrish’s consent. If you have any questions regarding the legal implications of what you have just read, please send us your question so we can have our attorney review it.