Drunk Driving Case Verdict | Bryan Caulfield & Dane Heptner

Drunk driving destroys lives. That was the message of attorneys Bryan Caulfield and Dane Heptner in a recent case where their client was awarded a $3.1 million verdict following a civil trial at the Hillsborough County Courthouse. The case that gave rise to the trial concerned a series of tragic events occurring in August of 2014, and involved several interesting points of law.

On August 30, 2014, the client, Caitlin Meyer, was struck by a drunk driver as she fished from an access road that ran along the north side of the Courtney Campbell Causeway. Caitlin was just 18 years old at the time of the collision. The impact from the collision was so great that Caitlin was thrown into the rocks that line the sea wall of the bridge; and she sustained fractures in her ribs, her neck, her back, and her hand. Caitlin also suffered a dissected carotid artery, a fractured eye socket, a deflated and lacerated lung, and her pelvis was shattered in three different places. Following the incident Caitlin had to have surgery on her pelvis, which involved the implantation of a metal plate and 6 different metal rods and screws of varying sizes and functions. She was confined to a hospital bed for months, and had to wear a neck brace for close to a year.

Focusing solely on issues of damages, attorneys Bryan Caulfield and Dane Heptner were able to paint a picture for the Hillsborough County Jury of just how much Caitlin’s life had been destroyed in the collision. Witnesses included an eyewitness to the collision, Caitlin’s medical doctors, and her mother, who flew down from Baltimore Maryland to stay with Caitlin during her 18 day stay in St. Joseph’s Hospital.

Caitlin also made a claim for punitive damages, which are designed not only to punish the wrongdoer in a particular case, but are also intended to serve as a

deterrent to members of the community for making similar decisions in the future. Through the evidence that was presented, Attorneys Dane Heptner and Bryan Caulfield were able to show that the Defendant underwent a breathalyzer test more than two hours after the collision, and her blood alcohol content at that point was still more than two times the legal limit. In his closing argument, Dane Heptner invited the jury to not only punish the Defendant for her decisions, but to also send a message to our Tampa Bay Community that this type of behavior will not be tolerated. The message was heard, with jury assessing $500,000 against the Defendant in punitive damages.

The jury returned its verdict on January 12, 2016. The large verdict and short timeline between the collision date and verdict date demonstrate just how swiftly justice can be rendered when attorneys utilize the law to represent the interests of clients they both care about. Both Bryan Caulfield and Dane Heptner are grateful to Caitlin Meyer and her mother for trusting Perenich Caulfield Avril & Noyes with Caitlin’s case.


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