Three years ago, a Reedley woman was driving while intoxicated and caused a collision with our client. Our client was battered and bruised, but fortunately did not suffer any life threatening injuries.
The defendant’s conduct was outrageous. Her blood alcohol content was 0.29% (the legal limit in California is 0.08%). She had multiple DUI convictions. And, worst of all, she was drunk driving with her 7-year-old son and 5-month-old daughter in her car. The defendant was arrested and convicted of felony DUI and child endangerment.
We sought punitive damages against the defendant for her despicable conduct. We also sought attorney’s fees under Code of Civil Procedure section 1021.4, which allows an injured plaintiff to recover fees from a defendant who is convicted of a felony.
The defense attorneys fought us every step of the way, and even tried to argue that our client caused the collision. We took the defendant’s videotaped deposition at the women’s prison in Chowchilla where she was incarcerated, and she confessed that she knew it was dangerous to drive drunk, but did it anyway. We then filed a motion with the court to allow us to conduct discovery into the defendant’s financial affairs in order to determine her ability to pay punitive damages and attorney’s fees. We presented our evidence to the judge and he concluded that we were very likely to win the case at trial. This forced the defense to cave and offer the $100,000 settlement to our client.