'Shocking' low verdict in wrongful death case has attorney asking for new trial

David Yates Sep. 30, 2009, 12:00pm


Lawyers for Renee Hollier called her jury award of $7,500 "shocking" on Wednesday, Sept. 30, as they pleaded with a local judge for a redo during a hearing for a new trial.

As the Southeast Texas Record reported on Sept. 16, Hollier's case against defendants Kevin Lavine and Meagan Osborne ended with an award of $50,000 for her son's past mental anguish and pain, plus an additional $7,500 for her own personal loss of companionship and mental anguish, a modest amount for a wrongful death case and much less than what the plaintiff was seeking.

Hollier filed suit against Lavine and Osborne in August 2007 after her son was killed in a tractor-trailer collision.

"How in the world does a (verdict) come out like this? You have to let us come back again," pleaded plaintiff's attorney Anthony Malley to Judge Milton Shuffield during the hearing. "We believe this new trial is very meritorious."

Malley added that the lawyers and judges he's spoken with about the case have expressed "shock" over the "low" verdict.

"This is not just a court of law; it's a court of equity also," Malley said. "$7,500 is just not in the interest of justice."

The defense countered his arguments by citing similar cases and appellate rulings, saying that juries have awarded comparable dollar amounts in corresponding cases.

Defense attorneys also pointed out that there was evidence that Hollier's son was not even living with her at the time of the incident.

The case's presiding judge, Judge Milton Shuffield, declined to rule on the spot and said he take the attorneys' arguments "under advisement."

Case background

According to court documents, on June 27, 2007, Renee's son, Jordan Hollier, was a passenger in a vehicle being operated by Meagan Osborne.

The two were traveling along the Eastex Freeway when Lavine, who was allegedly speeding while driving a tractor-trailer rig, collided with Osborne's vehicle.

Testimony and court records show that there was evidence that Osborne veered into Lavine's lane.

Conversely, during the trial, Osborne said Lavine had veered into her lane.

Either way, Jordan sustained a head injury, resulting in his death, leading jurors to find Osborne negligent and dish out a $57,500 verdict against her.

No damages were levied against Levine.

After the trial, Judge Shuffield said the plaintiff was asking for "a lot more" than $57,500.

Hollier was awarded $2,500 for loss of companionship, $5,000 for her mental anguish, and $50,000 for any pain and mental anguish her son suffered prior to his death.

Anthony Malley III is an attorney for the Moore Landrey law firm.

Case No. D179-822

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