A St. Charles Parish Louisiana jury sent a strong and unprecedented message to Veolia Water North America, LLC and its intoxicated driver Rodney Gonzales, by awarding $25,000,000 in punitive damages to the victims and their families of a drunk driving accident. After 8 days of trial, the jury found the defendants 100% responsible for the death of James Thistlewaite and the injuries of Jonathan Mouton.
The case arose out of a 2007 crash caused by an intoxicated Gonzales, a Veolia employee, operating a company vehicle at over 90 miles per hour, wrecking it on the Bonne Carre spillway (I-10) and abandoning the completely unlighted truck. Witnesses confirmed that the unlighted vehicle created a sudden and unavoidable emergency leading to a horrific crash and explosion. The jury also found that Veolia, a multinational company, negligently entrusted the company truck to Gonzales, whose substance abuse and poor driving record made him ineligible for a company vehicle under Veolia company policy.
The jury granted $3.5 million to Thistlethwaite for the conscious suffering he endured for eight days in the Baton Rouge burn unit until he succumbed to his injuries; $100,000 to his daughter, Pam for the loss of her father; and $500,000 to Mouton for post traumatic stress disorder and loss of income- for a total judgment of $29,100,000.
Blake R. David of Broussard, David & Moroux, Lafayette, Louisiana, was counsel for Jonathan Mouton, who was awarded half the punitive damage sum for a total award of $13M. David reported that, “Louisiana has decided that drunk drivers do not belong on our roadways, especially drivers who are shipped in from out of state driving company vehicles”. “The jury’s message was loud and clear – companies must enforce the law and their own policies on drinking and driving in company vehicles.”