A jury in Williamson County, Tennessee, awarded the victim of a hit-and-run accident a record-setting $13.6 million dollars for compensatory damages plus a $5 million dollar award for punitive damages. The victim, Jennifer Carman, suffered permanent injuries due to the hit-and-run driver. This award is the largest ever in Williamson County, where damages conferred through all cases over the past twenty years don’t even add up to $10 million total.
Carman, a jogger, was running on the shoulder of the road when an oncoming vehicle struck her before driving away. The road, Edmondson Pike, experiences fairly high traffic. However, as Carman was on the shoulder, the vehicle was determined to have left the roadway before striking her. When the driver’s identity was determined to be Joshua Kellon, police found and arrested him at the home he shared with his mother. His truck was also found to have significant damage. Kellon was found to have both opiates and Xanax in his system at the time of the crash. Kellon, in the related criminal case, was given a four-year sentence in prison after he pled guilty to vehicular assault.
Strom & Associates, a Chicago firms that handles pedestrian accidents, shares that some 70,000 pedestrians were hurt in accidents in just 2010, citing National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data. While only a small portion of those – 4000 – result in death, many do cause life-limiting outcomes. In this case, Carman’s injuries were severe, including manage broken bones, including in her face, leg, ankle and hands. She lost a thumb to amputation as well as her right eye. She required significant time in the hospital, resulting in very high medical bills. She also lost the ability to earn significant future salaries in her work as a medical doctor.
A twist in the case assigned a portion of the blame for the accident in the driver’s mother, Dayne Kellon. Despite the younger Kellon’s inability to earn an income as a landscaper, his mother paid for his truck as well as his other life expenses. The mother wasn’t in the area at the time of the crash, however was held to non-minority percentage of the liability because she enabled her son to keep and maintain a truck he could not afford on his own. A common tort law construct posits that but for a certain action, a particular outcome would not have come about. In this case, but for the mother’s support of her adult son and his truck, he may not have been on the road that day and Carman may not have been struck.
The defendants are planning an appeal and it is unlikely the plaintiffs will ever recover the full amount of monies determined by the jury. However, if the case is not overturned, both plaintiffs will be required to make payments to Carman for the rest of their lives.