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Jury awards $28M in fatal DUI case

| Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, 12:41 a.m.

An Allegheny County jury has awarded more than $28 million in compensatory and punitive damages to parties affected by a deadly 2009 car crash in Pittsburgh's Lincoln Place neighborhood.

Pittsburgh Elks Lodge No. 11 and Timothy Lesko, 26, of Munhall — who is serving a two- to four-year sentence in State Correctional Institution Pittsburgh in connection with the accident — have been ordered to compensate the estates of an Elizabeth couple who died as a result of the crash, as well as two accident survivors.

Out of the total of $28,007,000 awarded, the Elks is responsible for $10 million in punitive damages. No punitive damages were imposed on Lesko.

The accident occurred on Mifflin Road on Sept. 26, 2009, as Jessica Trail, 24, her boyfriend, William Grice, and two others were traveling home together from a wedding in Munhall when Lesko's vehicle struck theirs.

Lesko's blood-alcohol level was .226 percent the night of the accident.

Trail died at the accident scene. Grice suffered severe injuries in the crash and died seven months later from an overdose of pain medication.

The plaintiffs' attorneys, John Gismondi and Matt Racunas, argued during the trial that Lesko had drunk heavily at a serve-yourself Elks function the afternoon of the wreck and the club hadn't done anything to prevent him from driving away afterward.

Trail's estate was awarded $7.75 million by way of a unanimous jury decision. The Grice estate was awarded $8.8 million.

Damages were awarded to the survivors of the wreck, too. Driver Amanda Delval was awarded $400,000 and passenger Michael Trail was awarded $1,050,000.

A spokesperson from the office of Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas Judge Alan Hertzberg said, after nearly two days of deliberation, the jury found that Lesko was 60 percent responsible for causing the accident and the Elks was 40 percent responsible.

Racunas said families of the victims were pleased with the verdict but added the case still could be appealed.

Lesko's attorney, Joe Hudock, said he didn't know on Friday if his client's insurance company will want to appeal the case.

“I respect the decision of the jury,” Hudock said.

Elks' attorney James W. Young Jr. could not be reached for comment.

Eric Slagle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1966, or eslagle@tribweb.com.

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