In July 2008, an Ohio teenage girl was a passenger on a motorcycle that witnesses say was speeding and weaving in and out of traffic near Shadyside, Ohio. When a vehicle pulled in front of the bike, the driver was unable to avoid a collision, and both the driver and passenger were ejected in the motorcycle accident that resulted. A few weeks following the collision, the passenger died from her injuries.
The bike's driver, then 21-year-old Lauren Decker of Wheeling, West Virginia -- Decker is now 24 -- pleaded no contest to a charge of aggravated vehicular homicide and was sentenced to a four-year prison term at the Eastern Ohio Correction Center in Lisbon. She was granted a judicial release after she served slightly more than two years of her sentence.
Decker was in Wheeling last week as the co-defendant in a civil wrongful death lawsuit brought by the decedent's parents against her and James P. Meintel, the owner of the motorcycle Decker drove that was involved in the fatal accident.
The trial proceeded and concluded quickly, given that both Decker and Meintel admitted negligence in their roles in the accident. A West Virginia jury awarded the family $13 million in damages, including $1.5 million against Meintel, who allowed Decker to drive despite her license not having a motorcycle endorsement.
Nearly $5 million was awarded the family for mental anguish, and $3.5 million was assessed against Decker in punitive damages.
The jury found both defendants' actions to have been done "with criminal indifference to the civil rights of others."
Related Resource: Wheeling News Register, "Jury Awards $13 M to Family of Crash Victim" June 29, 2011