Goings Law Firm wins $12,500,000.00 Verdict in Columbia Against Drunk Driver
Our firm holds drunk drivers accountable!! On September 10, 2021, Robert F. Goings and Jessica L. Gooding of the Goings Law Firm, LLC won a jury verdict in the amount of $12,500,000.00 for a client involved a car collision in Columbia involving a drunk driver. The verdict comprised of $3,500,000.00 in actual damages and $9,000,000.00 in punitive damages, reflecting the egregious conduct of a drunk and intoxicated driver endangering the public. This verdict is considered the largest jury verdict in Richland County history in a non-fatality automobile collision. The client sustained $380,000 in medical bills for treatment to his right shoulder, neck, and low back caused in a rear end collision on I-77 in a work zone, including being out of work for approximately two years following the collision. Our firm has a reputation for getting results in the courtroom, and this verdict is another testament of our ability to hold drunk drivers accountable for their reckless and illegal conduct. If you or your loved ones have been injury or killed in a collision caused by a drunk driver, please call or text our law firm today at 803-350-9230 for a free, no obligation consultation.
This case was featured on the front page of The State Newspaper in South Carolina. Here is the article:
Richland County jury awards $12.5M to man in DUI crash
By: John Monk
COLUMBIA, SC: A Richland County jury awarded $12.5 million in damages to a highway worker who was severely injured on Interstate 77 in 2018 by a car driven by a man characterized during his trial as a “habitual drunken driver.”
The jury was out less than three hours and returned a verdict late Friday, said Columbia attorney Robert Goings, who represented the injured worker, Keith Bookman before State Judge Grace Knie.The $12.5 million verdict includes $3.5 million in actual damages and $9 million in punitive damages, according to court records.
In 2018, Columbia-area attorney Jason Buffkin crashed his Honda into the rear of Bookman’s truck, which was in the northbound lane of I-77 near the Garners Ferry Road exit. At the time of the crash, Bookman, 51, was part of a road crew and the truck he was driving was traveling north on the interstate at the end of a small caravan of trucks sweeping the interstate of debris from roadside construction.
The flashing message on the back of Bookman’s truck said, “Right Lane Closed,” with an arrow pointing to the left lane, Goings said.
Evidence at the four-day trial last week showed that Bookman’s medical expenses related to the crash were approximately $380,000 for surgeries to his shoulder, neck and lower back, said Goings, who tried the case with partner Jessica Gooding.
The evidence before the jury also showed that Buffkin had a blood alcohol content of .148 some four hours after the crash, Goings said.
In his final argument to jurors, Goings said he told them, “You need to return a verdict that is big enough to make it in the newspaper, to send a message to any drunk driver that is out there that drunk driving is not tolerated in Richland County — that our lives, our families’ lives are worth more than to be endangered by a reckless, careless drunk driver.”
Buffkin could not be reached for comment.
Buffkin’s attorney, Deidre Smallwood of Columbia, told The State Monday, “I am no longer involved with that” and had no further comment.
A lawsuit in the case said that between 2001-2018, Buffkin was charged with three DUIs, twice in South Carolina and once in Virginia.
In his answer to the allegations about previous DUI arrests, Buffkin’s lawsuit argued that those DUI charges “lack relevance,” were inadmissible in the trial and “not appropriate facts to be included in” this trial.
“The jury did get to hear that evidence, which showed the duration of his conduct,” Goings said Tuesday.
Steven Burritt, executive director for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, or MADD, in South Carolina, said in his experience that size of a verdict is “unprecedented.”
“I can’t recall hearing anything that large in a DUI case,” Burritt said.
“That jury took the opportunity to express just how serious this crime is, and how frustrating it is to see this kind of behavior, which puts all of us at risk.” Burritt said. “The jurors said, ‘Here’s something we can do — we can send a message.’”
Collecting a sizable judgment is always uncertain and it remains uncertain how much of the $12.5 million verdict will be received.
But, Goings said, “We plan to exhaust all avenues to collect on the verdict.”