Crash Victim Wins $8.5 Million Despite Facebook Posts
A driver who was hit by a truck and whose wife died in the accident had his multi-million dollar jury award upheld even though new evidence showed that before the trial he erased incriminating evidence on his Facebook page.
Isaiah Lester and his wife Jessica were riding in a car in 2007 when a cement truck driven by William Donald Sprouse crossed the center line. The truck tipped over and crushed the Lesters’ vehicle. Jessica was killed in the accident. Sprouse pled guilty to manslaughter based on investigators’ evidence that he was speeding.
In Lester’s civil suit against the owner of the cement truck, Allied Concrete, a jury ruled in his favor and awarded him a total of $8.5 million, plus $2 million to Jessica’s parents.
The concrete company asked for a new trial after it was discovered that before trial Lester’s attorney, Matthew B. Murray, had asked him to “clean up” his Facebook profile. Lester deleted 16 photos that were later recovered, including one in which Lester was holding a beer can and wearing a garter belt on his head and wearing a t-shirt that said “I [heart] hot moms.”
After the trial, the judge refused to allow a new trial just because of the Facebook profile, but cut $4 million off the verdict for other reasons, finding that Lester played on the jury’s sympathies by crying during opening and closing statements.
But in the final say on the matter, the Virginia Supreme Court did not find those factors should reduce the verdict or warrant a new trial. The court reinstated Lester’s entire $8.5 million verdict.