Fatal Car Accident Leads to Puntitive Damages

Estate of Wanda M. Holland v. Chad Kessing Sr.

C/A No.: 2010-CP-08-3595

This case invovled a fatal automobile incident in Berkeley County, South Carolina.  At 12:42 p.m. on May 12, 2008 Chad Kessing Sr., traveling southbound on Hwy. 17A, crossed the center line and caused a head on collision with Ms. Wanda Holland’s vehicle.  Ms. Holland’s injuries proved fatal.  Mr. Kessing was not criminally charged, however, Ms. Holland’s estate filed a wrongful death action in Berkeley County’s Court of Common Pleas. 

The key argument presented by the estate’s attorneys was that Kessing was a danger behind the wheel and should not have been driving.  This was evidenced by the fact that his license had previously been revoked on two separate occasions.  Additionally, at the time of the accident, Mr. Kessing was driving under a learner’s permit, which requires a licensed driver to be in the car with him – a requirement Mr. Kessing failed to follow.

On June 18, 2013, the jury awarded Ms. Holland’s estate $3.5M; $500,000 in actual damages and $3,000,000 in punitive damages. Whereas actual damages are awarded to compensate for a monetary loss (i.e., medical bills), punitive damages are awarded for the purposes of punishing the tortfeasor for the negligent act and deterring similar future behavior.  In South Carolina, the standard for awarding punitive damages in a wrongful death suit requires that the “wrongful act, neglect, or default was the result of recklessness, willfulness, or malice . . .”  S.C. Code Ann. § 15-51-40 (emphasis added).

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Author: Malena Dinwoodie, Stratos Law, LLC

 

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