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Wednesday, December 6, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Wednesday, December 6, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

$89 Million Award |in Fatal DUI Case

(CN) - A Missouri jury awarded $89 million to the family of a man killed in a 2008 crash with a drunken driver. Troy Zerna, 20 at the time, was on a hardship license after a previous DWI when he caused the head-on crash that killed Dennis Riegel, 28, on Feb. 2, 2008, court papers state.

Zerna's blood-alcohol level was 2½ times the state's legal limit, the Missouri Highway Patrol testified during the one-day trial.

Zerna has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for DWI-related convictions.

Riegel and his fiancée, Christine Hodge, who was 13 weeks pregnant, were returning from a mall after registering for wedding gifts when the crash happened.

Hodge, who was seriously hurt, has since given birth to a daughter. The Franklin County jury awarded $53.5 million to Hodge and $33.5 million to the couple's daughter and Riegel's parents.

Attorney Mark Bronson, whose firm won the case, said that even though the victims will probably never see even a fraction of the money, the jury showed its disgust with drunk driving.

"The eye-popping numbers were the jury's attempt to send a message the only way they could," Bronson told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

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