On Friday, July 11, 2014, we obtained a $1.8 Million dollar verdict for Ms. Dawn M. Jones and her family as a result of the death of her daughter Ikeyia M. Jones. Ikeyia died on February 10, 2013, on South Crater Road, by Blandford Cemetery in Petersburg Virginia. She was only 18 years old. Ikeyai died when the car in which she was riding flipped and crashed into the Blandford Cemetery wall. No one admitted to driving the car at the time of the accident.
The evidence showed that the defendant, Cameron J. Butts, celebrated his 20th birthday at a club in Richmond on February 9, 2013. He caught a ride back to his house in Petersburg where his dad owned a white Ford Taurus. In the early morning hours of February 10, Mr. Butts and a male friend took the Ford Taurus out for a drive. They picked Ikeyia up around 5:30 a.m. and not more than a half hour later, Ikeyia was found dead, her body lying at the foot of the Blandford cemetery wall.
The evidence was circumstantial as to who was driving the car involved in this single-vehicle crash: Mr. Butts pled the Fifth Amendment, Ms. Jones died at the scene, and neither party called the car’s third occupant to testify.
An eye witness testified that he saw the white Ford Taurus fly by him as he was traveling on South Crater Road. He estimated that the car was going 45-60 (the speed limit is 35 on that stretch of road). The eye witness also stated that he saw the car lose control, fishtail, flip 2-3 times, and crash into the Blandford Cemetery wall.
In support of the allegation that Mr. Butts was the driver, the plaintiff used photographs of Mr. Butts’ face, taken by the Petersburg Police at VCU Medical Center only hours after the crash, documenting numerous shallow facial abrasions. Ms. Jones introduced medical expert testimony at trial from the Assistant Chief Medical Examiner, Kevin D. Whaley, M. D., a forensic pathologist, who testified that an airbag caused Mr. Butts’ facial abrasions. A police photograph of the interior of the wrecked car showed that the driver was likely sitting closer to an airbag than was the front seat passenger. Additional photographs demonstrated that neither of the other occupants suffered facial abrasions.
Finally, a VCU trauma nurse testified that she remembered treating Mr. Butts at MCV. She testified that Mr. Butts told her that he remembered the accident and that Mr. Butts would answer all of her questions, but when the nurse asked him where he was sitting in the car at the time of the accident, Mr. Butts would just stop speaking and close his eyes. We asked the jury to treat this silence as an admission by Mr. Butts that he was the driver.
The Petersburg jury was out for approximately 2 hours before returning with a verdict in favor of Ms. Jones and her family in the amount of $1,880,385.
Defense motions to set aside the verdict are pending. Ryan T. Walker with GEICO Staff Counsel in Richmond represented Mr. Butts.