LANCASTER – One of the largest personal injury verdicts in the history of both Lancaster and York County was secured Wednesday by attorneys representing the estate of a young woman killed in a drunk driving accident in February 2014.
A Lancaster County jury entered a verdict of $15.1 million in favor of plaintiff Lisa M. Stamper, also representing the estate of her late daughter, 24 year-old Kaitlyn E. Berry. The award was levied against case defendant Carlos Garcia.
The case revolved around a motor vehicle crash that occurred on Feb. 22, 2014, on East King Street in Lancaster. Garcia, then 33, had a suspended driver’s license and was allegedly speeding and erratically weaving in and out of traffic directly prior to the accident.
Further, Garcia was legally intoxicated when operating a 1996 Ford Explorer, with a verified blood alcohol concentration of .144, nearly twice the legal limit in the state of Pennsylvania. At the time, Garcia’s seven year-old son was also a passenger.
Stamper, then 47, was driving her 2002 Subaru Legacy on East King Street with Berry riding in the passenger seat. After rear-ending another vehicle, Garcia crossed the double-yellow lines of traffic into Stamper’s lane of travel and caused a head-on collision.
While Garcia’s son only incurred minor injuries according to reports, Stamper suffered serious injuries in the collision which now require her to use a wheelchair. Berry was pronounced dead at the scene.
Lancaster police arrested Garcia and charged him with homicide by vehicle, aggravated assault, accidents involving death while not properly licensed, endangering the welfare of children, reckless driving and driving while under suspension (DUI related).
At his criminal trial, it was established Garcia had a long record of prior convictions, including several DUI violations. Citing that prior record, Lancaster County Judge Joseph Madenspacher convicted Garcia and ordered maximum sentences on the multitude of charges he faced, for a 38-year prison sentence.
Garcia appealed his conviction and sentence length to the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, which upheld Madenspacher’s decision.
Stamper filed a civil suit against Garcia and Pena (registered owner of the vehicle Garcia drove in the accident) in July 2014, alleging negligence, recklessness, wrongful death, survival, negligent entrustment, vicarious liability, in addition to joint and several liability.
Stamper sought damages in excess of $50,000, plus costs, interests and punitive damages in her suit. With respect to Pena, a settlement on her behalf was reached with the plaintiffs prior to trial. The full $15.1 million award was levied against Garcia only.
One member of Stamper’s counsel, York-based attorney Taylor Bare, offered comment on the jury’s verdict.
“The family is elated that the verdict may deter others from driving unsafely and hope that it will prevent at least one other family from suffering a similar tragedy,” Bare said. “[Stamper’s] purpose in pursuing this case was to send a loud message to all reckless drivers that their careless actions will not be tolerated.”
Bare added an appeal of the jury verdict was not expected.
The plaintiff was represented by both Bare and Douglas Bare of Bare Law Firm, in York.
Defendant Pena was represented by Ronald E. Reitz of Margolis Edelstein, in Pittsburgh.
Lancaster County Court of Common Pleas case CI-14-06784
From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at firstname.lastname@example.org