A Miami-Dade circuit jury has awarded $15 million to the parents of a 23-year-old who was killed by a drunken driver in a crash that killed five people.
Six jurors deliberated for three hours late Thursday before awarding Kathleen and Michael Kastenholz of West Palm Beach $15 million in compensatory damages and $350,000 in punitive damages.
“The punitive award represents a pronouncement by the jury that drunk driving in Miami-Dade County won’t be tolerated,” said Miami attorney Edward Blumberg, who represented the Kastenholzes.
“We’re very sorry about the passing of this young man, and I hope this award gives his family a measure of closure,”said defense lawyer Michael Brand of Cole Scott & Kissane in Miami.
On March 5, 2011, Carlos Lacayo, then 24, was driving home drunk from a nightclub at 5 a.m. when he crashed into five people on the side of the road of I-95 at 103rd Street, according to police records. The bystanders were all waiting for police on the shoulder of the highway after several small car accidents when they were struck and killed.
Lacayo was taken to the hospital, where his blood alcohol tested 0.127—well above the legal limit. Police later went to his home to arrest him for vehicular homicide and discovered he fled. He remains a fugitive today.
If convicted, Lacayo faces up to 75 years in prison.
One of those killed instantly was Emerson Kastenholz, a recent University of Miami graduate and star athlete who was planning on attending medical school.
Kastenholz’s parents were the first of the victims to bring a civil lawsuit against Lacayo, which was defended by his car insurance company; others are pending. Blumberg said he does not expect an appeal, since the judge had already ruled on the issue of liability.
The jury awarded $9 million to Kastenholz’s mother and $6 million to his father along with the punitive damages.
The trial began Monday before Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Lisa Walsh and ended late Thursday.
“This is one of those cases where there is a good outcome and the system worked but you’d rather the victim was still alive and this had never happened,” said Blumberg.