South Carolina Jury Awards $50M in Motorcycle Wrongful Death Lawsuit

A South Carolina jury has awarded a record-breaking $50 million in a lawsuit over a fatal motorcycle accident.  

The wrongful death lawsuit was filed in 2010, by the family of Frank “Randy” Bales against Abel Martinez-Martinez.

According to allegations brought in the case filed in the Charleston County Court of Common Pleas in South Carolina, Martinez-Martinez ran a red light, resulting in Bales running into the side of his vehicle in Charleston County five years ago.

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Bales was riding a motorcycle on his way to work and was thrown from the bike. He died at the scene.

Martinez-Martinez’s attorneys claimed that the traffic control system at the intersection of Fain Street and Aviation Avenue in Charleston County was to blame for the accident. During the trial, they used computer animation to show how the traffic lights could be confusing and contributed to the accident. However, the jury disagreed and found Martinez-Martinez 100% liable for the accident.

The jury awarded $20 million to Bales’ estate for actual damages, and also hit Martinez-Martinez with a $30 million punitive damages penalty. Punitive damages are generally awarded in cases where the defendant is believed to have shown callous disregard for human life or recklessly endangered others.

Bales was survived by his wife, Cindy, and a son, Curtis.

According to a press release issued by attorneys representing the family, the jury’s damage award is believed to be the highest ever returned in that court.

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