Not over: Both sides appeal in Lester v. Allied Concrete
The lawsuit that resulted in one of the largest wrongful death jury awards in Virginia has been appealed– by both sides.
Plaintiff Isaiah Lester, widower of 25-year-old Jessica Scott Lester, who died when an Allied Concrete truck rolled onto her car in 2007, saw his $8.6 million award slashed by $4.1 million by a judge, who also sanctioned him for $180,000 for destroying evidence. Also punished was attorney Matt Murray who was hit with a $542,000 sanction. Murray represented Lester but then resigned abruptly in July from Allen & Allen after the defense accused him of misconduct.
The insurance company for Allied Concrete, which asked for over $900,000 in sanctions against Lester and Murray for the removal of a Facebook photo of Lester wearing an "I [heart] hot moms" t-shirt, apparently wasn't happy with the reduced award and sanctions either, and its attorneys filed an appeal November 17 as well.
Nor was a juror on the case happy when Charlottesville Circuit Court Judge Edward Hogshire reduced Lester's award, calling it "so excessive on its face as to suggest that it was motivated by bias, sympathy, passion or prejudice rather than by fair and objective consideration of the evidence."
Juror Margaret Gardiner chastised Hogshire in a letter, saying his assumptions about the jury's decision-making were incorrect.
Whether either side will benefit from Gardiner's post-trial opining remains to be seen.
"You'd expect the plaintiff to use it as evidence, but it has to be part of the record," says Hook legal expert David Heilberg. "Just because it's in the file doesn't mean it's part of the record."
Heilberg says he's not surprised both sides are appealing. Attorneys on either side did not return phone calls from the Hook. The appeal goes to the Supreme Court of Virginia, which will decide whether to hear the case.
How typical is it for both sides to appeal?
"It doesn't happen too often," says Chief Deputy Clerk Doug Robelen at the Supreme Court in Richmond. "Sometimes, no one likes how you split the baby."