Steamboat Springs A Routt County jury has awarded $1.251 million to a Steamboat Springs woman who was a passenger in a car involved in a fatal crash Feb. 5, 2011.
"My client's life is forever changed," Steamboat Springs attorney Rick Eddington said. "There are no winners in this case. It's tragic for everyone."
The crash occurred just west of Steamboat during a snowy night while fireworks lit up the sky over Howelsen Hill during the Winter Carnival Night Extravaganza. Jenna Erickson, 22, was driving toward Steamboat on U.S. Highway 40 when her 1994 Buick LeSabre went straight through a righthand curve near a road leading to the Silver Spur subdivision. The passenger side of her car struck an oncoming Dodge Ram pickup.
Erickson suffered critical injuries and was pronounced dead after being taken from the crash scene to Yampa Valley Medical Center.
An autopsy report showed Erickson had 5.1 nanograms of active THC per milliliter of blood in her system. A law signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper this past May deemed someone driving under the influence if their THC level was 5 nanograms.
The Colorado State Patrol considered the marijuana impairment a major contributor to the crash. The Patrol also determined Erickson sent a text message at or very near the time of the crash.
The two people inside the pickup that Erickson hit were seriously injured in the crash, but both survived.
According to Eddington, the driver of the pickup, David Moll, suffered a traumatic brain injury, and he never was able to return to work. Eddington said Moll received a settlement from Erickson's insurance company, Liberty Mutual, for the maximum $250,000 Erickson's policy allowed. Moll died this past October from a suspected heart attack.
Moll's passenger, Mary Ray, also suffered life-changing injuries. Eddington said Ray had a mild traumatic brain injury, suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, broke her ankle and had lower back injuries that require pain management.
"The lower back injury is progressively worse and likely to require surgery in the future," Eddington said.
Eddington said Liberty Mutual offered Ray a $275,000 settlement right before the trial, but he said they had to take the case to court.
"We just had too many expenses," Eddington said.
After the seven-day trial that concluded Friday, the foreman for the seven-member jury, retired Steamboat Olympic Nordic combined skier Johnny Spillane, delivered the verdict. The jury awarded $575,000 in non-economic damages for factors such as pain and suffering. The jury also awarded $676,000 in non-economic damages for such things as past and future medical bills and lost wages.
Eddington stressed he did not view the jury's award as a victory. It was a tragic accident, he said, and lives were forever changed.
"I can't relay enough how terrible I feel for Ms. Erickson's family and everyone else," Eddington said.
To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland
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