Date of Verdict:
Court and Case No.:
C.P. Union No. 10-0949.
Michael T. Hudock.
Type of Action:
Blinding, facial drooping.
D. Joseph Chapman and Scott Cooper, SchmidtKramer, Harrisburg.
Dr. Shawn McGlaughlin, family practice, Mifflinburg, Pa.; Dr. Herbert Ingraham, ophthalmology, Danville, Pa.
A Union County judge has entered a $4 million verdict in favor of a Pennsylvania man who was blinded after being shot in the face by a man who never should have been hunting in the first place.
In the case of Hobbins v. Miller, according to court filings and the plaintiffs’ attorney, defendant Leroy Miller did not oppose the lawsuit he faced after he shot Michael Hobbins during an apparent hunting accident.
According to D. Joseph Chapman of SchmidtKramer, who represented Hobbins and his wife, Court of Common Pleas Judge Michael T. Hudock entered the verdict earlier this month after a bench trial that Miller did not attend.
According to court records and an interview with Chapman, Miller was on probation for a DUI and other offenses when the accident took place in May 2010. Because he violated his probation by possessing a firearm, Miller is now serving at least 30 months in state prison, according to court records.
Chapman admitted that actually recouping the award, entered by Hudock, would be somewhat of a long shot.
Chapman called the verdict a “Pyrrhic victory.”
The way Chapman put it, Hobbins, his wife Terry and their lawyers proceeded knowing “the potential that [Michael Hobbins] will never see a dime.”
“We can only hope when [Miller] gets out of prison, he’ll be a productive member of society,” Chapman said. “If he develops any assets, there’s a chance we could get to them in the future.”
So why move forward with the case?
“These guys needed to hear from an independent person that what they went through is worth something,” Chapman said. And the judge’s verdict is a good start, he said.
Chapman also noted that two expert witnesses he employed, after learning about the case, refused to accept compensation from his law firm for their reports and testimony.
The attorney said his client is a likeable guy with a compelling story.
According to interviews with Chapman and court filings, the incident unfolded as both men were hunting in 2010. Hobbins had a license to hunt.
Miller, on the other hand, the plaintiffs alleged, did not have a license to hunt and was breaking his probation by carrying a gun.
Miller also apparently doesn’t have the best eyesight.
“He thought my guy was a turkey, so he shot him,” Chapman said.
The attorney noted his client, a production supervisor at a manufacturing company and an assistant high school football coach, was permanently injured from the accident and will never work again.
His projected future lost income and lost wages totaled $664,999.
“Miller owed a duty to other hunters to identify his target and refrain from shooting people,” the plaintiffs pled in a pretrial filing. “When he shot Michael Hobbins, he failed in his duty.”
The court papers later added: “Because of the shooting, Michael Hobbins endured, and continues to endure, and will endure in the future, great pain and suffering, has permanent deformity due to facial droop from nerve damage, and suffers embarrassment from the deformity as well as the noticeable manifestations of his blindness, such as the use of a cane.”
The plaintiffs also filed for punitive damages and claimed Terry Hobbins lost the “society, companionship and services” of her husband.
Miller’s criminal records show he pled guilty to DUI, attempting to elude an officer and other offenses. After the hunting incident, prosecutors moved to revoke his probation.
He was sentenced to 30 to 60 months in state prison in December 2010.