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Closing Argument Excerpt from Car Accident Case-Seeking Punitive Damages
I will address exemplary damages. The Judge told you that the law permits you to make an example out of these defendants and an example you should make out of them. You need to find that they were wanton and wilfull and reckless. And they were. A reckless disregard for human life. A conscious disregard for the safety of others, is what the Judge told you.
This wasn't negligence. This was that deadly, dangerous game the man leading with the Jeep came up with. And you know you can't play this game by yourself. You need others. You need at least two cars to play that dangerous game. They had powerful cars and they did not control them. Everybody knows speed kills.
You will hear from their counsel: “They were only sixteen. They made a stupid mistake in judgment.” And he will tell you that they're victims, too. They were willing participants. How could you sit and listen to Steven Gross and not just be shocked at his utter disregard for playing that kind of a game? They imposed a lasting sentence on two people and permanent injuries on a third and they ought to pay, not only compensation, but they ought to be punished. You can't send them to jail. All you can do is return money damages. Tell them as a community—the twelve of you as the conscience of this community today in this case—you're just not gonna tolerate it.
What caused this collision? It was caused by something spelled with five letters: S-P-E-E-D. Speed caused the death of Lavie Roberts. Speed is the big factor in most traffic deaths. You can reach into your own experience and general knowledge and you will find that most of the traffic deaths do not take place downtown in the business district. The traffic there is so congested that no one can get up enough speed to kill anybody else. Where do people get killed in this city? They get killed where the roads are wide and where there's plenty of room and opportunity to open up the cars or “wind them up” as the witness told you today.
There's no question but that plaintiff had a social gathering at his house, normal thing, even if he weren't a person who can't get about as well as the rest of us. He had friends over. They played tapes. No evidence of any impairment, not one iota, although they would like to think that there was, to prejudice this plaintiff. He could have said, “I had nothing, no beer at all. I didn't have anything.” He could have said that, but he's not that kind of a boy. He's not going to tell you a lie. He had something to drink over the course of a couple hours. It didn't have any effect on him. I don't know, I didn't ask any of you jurors when we were questioning you whether you consume. Some people do, some people don't, but it's not illegal. And do you forfeit your rights to have a car safely made because you have a social gathering with your friends? Is this car only supposed to work when you're going to church or to school or to work? Or is it supposed to work at all times?
But what the defendants are counting on, ladies and gentlemen, is the hope that some of you will feel that if you have one drink at all you shouldn't get behind the wheel of a car, and that that will prejudice the plaintiff so that you will deny him damages.
Westlaw. © 2014 Thomson Reuters. No Claim to Orig. U.S. Govt. Works.