The 11-year-old daughter of a woman killed four years ago was awarded $1.6 million after a weeklong trial stemming from a car accident that involved a speeding, off-duty Baton Rouge Police officer.
On the day after Valentine’s day, February 15, 2003, Melissa Benton was driving Jimmy Thomas to work. As she attempted to cross Scenic Highway, a sign obstructed her view of oncoming traffic. When she began crossing the highway, a Baton Rouge Police cruiser traveling thirty miles per hour over the posted speed limit violently broadsided Ms. Benton’s vehicle. Ms. Benton died at the scene. Mr. Thomas suffered a broken leg and separated shoulder. Ms. Benton’s seven-year-old daughter, Jonqualya, was also in the car. Jonqualya suffered fractured vertebrae.
Before trial, East Baton Rouge Parish settled the matter with Jonqualya and Mr. Thomas for $325,000 each. At trial, Chevron argued all of the blame for the accident rested on the speeding police officer. However, Chevron’s signs on its property plainly violated the city parish’s sign ordinances regarding signs that obstruct motorists’ views.
After a seven-hour deliberation, the jury awarded Jonqualya Benton $2 million dollars, which the Court reduced to $1.6 million based on a the finding that Jonqualya was entitled to 80% of the jury’s award. The jury also awarded Jimmy Thomas and his son $800,000.