A Richland County jury awarded $1 million plus a dollar in punitive damages to a woman injured in a car crash involving a repeat drunken driver, according to court records.
The jury also awarded Jami Allison Owens $89,000 in actual damages for injuries suffered in the Oct. 1, 2011, crash on Bluff Road after a University of South Carolina football game, records say.
The $1 million-plus punitive damages were awarded after one of Owens’ lawyers in the case, David Williams of Orangeburg, urged the jury to consider dangers that drunk drivers pose.
“I told the jury that if you want to send a message that drinking and driving and hurting people in the process are not right, you have to say that loudly,” Williams said Monday. “And if you want to be loud, it’s going to require you to put a million dollars on the verdict form.”
Williams, who tried the case with wife Virginia Watson Williams, added: “I told the jury, ‘You won’t hear about the lives you save, but rest assured you are going to save lives and you won’t regret that.’”
The five-day trial before Circuit Judge D’Andrea Benjamin ended Friday. The jury deliberated on the actual damages for two days and on the punitive damages for a half-day, David Williams said.
In South Carolina, nearly half of all fatal crashes involve an impaired driver, according to the state Department of Public Safety. In 2013, 44 percent or 335 of 767 traffic deaths were attributed to drunken driving, highway safety records say.
Bradley Lanford, attorney for defendant James Boulware, declined comment Monday.
Boulware told jurors before the verdict he had learned his lesson, David Williams said.
According to Owens’ lawsuit, Boulware’s vehicle “suddenly and without warning” crashed into the vehicle she drove.
Owens, a pharmacist, suffered unspecified “serious and permanent injuries” from the crash, the lawsuit said.
In an written response in the lawsuit, Boulware said he believed “only that a minor collision occurred.”
The crash resulted in Boulware’s second conviction for driving under the influence, according to court records.
Boulware, in one response to the lawsuit, argued that a jury in this case was not authorized to award punitive damages.
David Williams interpreted the additional dollar added to the $1 million verdict as the jury’s way of sending a big message.
“That extra dollar doesn’t just say, ‘Stop it’,” he said. “It says, ‘You better stop it.’ It screams that we are not going to put up with this type of behavior.”