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$2.3M For Wrongful Death In Underage DUI

Driver serving four years in prison for causing death of young friend

by Thomas B. Scheffey
Connecticut Law Tribune

December 8, 2008

bill bloss

Attorney William Bloss said 400 to 500 mourners attended the funeral of Justin Scott Brown, who died in an accident caused by a drunk driver. Lawyers used his popularity to help compute non-economic damages in a civil suit filed by his family.

Estate of Justin Scott Brown v. Kimia

The parents of college freshman Justin Scott Brown, of Greenwich, have been awarded a $2.3 million court-approved settlement for his death three years ago when he was a passenger in a vehicle driven by Evan Kimia, now 20.

The young men had been classmates at Greenwich High School and had just finished their first week of classes at Norwalk Community College when the accident occurred at 12:40 a.m. on Sept. 2, 2005 on Round Hill Road in Greenwich near Lake Avenue.

According to the civil complaint filed by Brown’s estate, Kimia was impaired by alcohol and exceeding the speed limit when he lost control on a tight curve near Lake Avenue. His Volvo slammed into a tree, tearing off the passenger door and leaving a 200-foot trail of debris. Although wearing a seat belt, Brown suffered serious skull and face injuries and died as a result of the crash.

Brown’s father, David Brown, and his mother, Susan Supple were represented by William Bloss, of Bridgeport’s Koskoff, Koskoff & Bieder. Justin Brown’s estate, in an August 2007 wrongful death civil action, sought treble damages due to recklessness.

Kimia’s blood alcohol content was 0.13 percent, or six times the legal limit for underage drinkers in Connecticut, according to police reports. He had been arrested in a previous drunk driving incident, in which his blood alcohol content was similarly elevated, according to Assistant State’s Attorney Steve Weiss, who commented that Kimia had plenty of warning that he had an alcohol abuse problem.

Kimia was facing seven years imprisonment, but he was sentenced to four years in the Cheshire Correctional Center last December. His defense lawyer, Michael “Mickey” Sherman, argued that his client was a changed man after alcohol treatment at the Silver Hill rehabilitation facility in New Canaan, and asked Stamford Superior Court Judge Trial Referee Martin L. Nigro for a sentence from one year to 18 months.

Bloss said that he and opposing counsel Patrice Noai quickly realized a civil trial made little sense. “This case wasn’t going to change over time, and everybody thought this was a good one to consider resolving,” Bloss said.

To calculate projected damages, Bloss retained Gary Crakes, an economics professor at Southern Connecticut State University in New Haven.

Brown’s lifetime earnings over an actuarial 75-year lifespan were difficult to project. “Whenever you have a younger person, there’s always a question of how to determine the pecuniary damages of lost earning capacity, because there has not been an earning history,” Bloss said.

In computing non-economic damages, for loss of life’s enjoyment, Bloss brought up the fact that some 400 to 500 friends, family and other mourners attended Brown’s funeral at St. Jude’s Episcopal Church in Greenwich. “That shows a little bit about how respected and well-liked he was,” said Bloss.

Kimia was covered by a $2.25 million policy issued by Liberty Mutual Insurance Co. Its lawyer on this case, Noai, of the insurer’s in-house firm of Turret & Rosenbaum, could not be reached for comment.

Bloss noted: “Cases like this are very hard to analyze from a settlement point of view, because the risk to the defendant is limitless.”

Settling within the policy limits is “something the insurance company would need to consider,” said Bloss. He added that an individual defendant like Kimia has no reason to roll the dice with a trial and expose himself to additional liability.