The $21 million jury prize in a confirmed drunk driving crash

A Marion County jury award of more than $21 million to a passenger who became paraplegic when an inebriated friend crashed his truck after a night of drinking was upheld by the Court on Friday. Indiana call.

The appeal panel upheld the jury’s verdict in all respects in Nolan Clayton vs. Gregory Smith, 18A-CT-705, which Indianapolis legal watchers have called one of the biggest bodily injury awards from memory. A jury awarded Gregory Smith $35 million in damages in December, finding Nolan Clayton 60% guilty and owing $21 million. The jury also awarded Smith more than $714,000 in prejudgment interest.

Clayton and Smith were co-workers at the Stacked Pickle chain of bars and restaurants who often socialized and drank together, according to the filing. In February 2016, the two drank together at an Indianapolis Stacked Pickle for several hours after Smith hosted an event there. Another Stacked Pickle employee then asked Smith to leave. He and Clayton complied, and an employee called a cab for the two.

But when the taxi arrived, Clayton left in Smith’s vehicle as Smith got in as a passenger, and Clayton later crashed. He was uninjured, but Smith was ejected and broke his neck.

After the jury’s verdict in Smith’s civil suit, Clayton appealed, asking for a new trial. He argued that evidence of past drunk driving and expert witness testimony should not have been admitted. Clayton also claimed that prejudgment interest was wrongly awarded and that he should be entitled to post-verdict credit for payments Smith received from auto insurance policies.

The COA dismissed those allegations in a 29-page opinion by Judge L. Mark Bailey.

“Clayton has not demonstrated an abuse of the trial court’s discretion in its evidentiary rulings,” the panel concluded. “The trial court did not err in finding that the prejudgment interest law was applicable. Clayton has not established the right to a contemporaneous reduction of the jury’s verdict under the prepayment law.

Despite the confirmation of the jury’s verdict, it is far from certain that Smith will receive the awarded money. In a related case, another Court of Appeals panel earlier this month overturned a Superior Court order of Marion asking Smith’s insurer to pay assessed damages to Clayton from his life insurance coverage. uninsured motorist under his policy. This case is Progressive Southeastern Insurance Co. v. Gregory Smith, et al., 18A-PL-312.

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