A jury in Utah has awarded nearly $4.4 million to the widow and children of a man who suffered fatal injuries in 2006 when he tried to swerve around backed-up traffic on an Interstate highway and hit other vehicles. The amount of the verdict will be reduced by almost $2 million because of a state law that caps damages against the state and because of the victim’s share of responsibility for the accident. The family of Richard Kunzler alleged in its lawsuit that the State Department of Transportation and a subcontractor working on a bridge reconstruction project near Spanish Fork, Utah failed to post appropriate signs warning motorists about traffic delays. It was alleged that vehicles were backing up a long distance and approaching drivers were given insufficient warning about the construction.
It was proved at trial that Mr. Kunzler knew about the construction, but didn’t know where traffic was backing up. As he came over the crest of a hill on July 18, 2006, the driver ahead of him saw stopped cars and slammed on his brakes. Mr. Kunzler tried to swerve around the vehicle and crashed into another vehicle. He died 13 days later.
The jurors awarded damages totaling $4,396,268, awarding $2,896,268 for economic damages and $375,000 each for the decedent’s wife and three children for loss of care, comfort and companionship. They also found that Mr. Kunzler was responsible for 20% of the fault, meaning about $879,254 will be deducted from the total award. The jurors found UDOT to be 35% responsible, and Staker & Parson Cos. 45% responsible. UDOT’s share will be reduced to about $500,000 under a law that caps damages that can be assessed against state agencies. Tyler Young, a Provo lawyer, represented the family and did a very good job.
Source: The Salt Lake Tribune
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