A recent Illinois wrongful death lawsuit was awarded $1 million by an Illinois jury that found the defendant, William Barham, guilty of the negligence that led to his friend’s death in Estate of Isom v. Barham, 00 L 63. The case arose out of an Illinois car crash involving the defendant and the decedent, Jerry Isom. Barham was allegedly driving when the car ran off of the road and collided with a tree, killing Isom on impact.
Barham and Isom were the only two people in the vehicle and subsequently the only two injured as a result of the Illinois car accident. Both men were employed at the Shawnee Correctional Center, and were in fact driving an Illinois Department of Corrections vehicle at the time of the Illinois car crash. There was evidence that Barham had been drinking prior to the car accident.
The Illinois wrongful death lawsuit was brought by the estate of the decedent, Jerry Isom; he was survived by a wife and four children. The estate claimed that as the driver of the vehicle that Barham should be held responsible for Isom’s death. However, Barham claimed that he was not the driver, but that Isom had in fact been driving at the time of the Illinois car crash.
The decedent’s estate brought forward an expert who testified that the nature of Isom’s injuries, which were mainly on the right side of his body, was consistent with him being in the passenger seat at the time of the accident. The ambiguity about who was driving led to the appeal of the Barham’s criminal conviction. As a result of the Illinois car crash, Barham had been convicted of an aggravated DUI and reckless homicide; however, the conviction was later reversed on appeal based on inconclusive evidence of who was driving the vehicle at the time of the Illinois car crash.
The burden of proof is higher for a criminal case than for a civil case, like the wrongful death lawsuit brought by the decedent’s surviving family. Yet a jury must still decide issues of guilt and negligence based on the facts provided. Given the contrary nature of many of the case facts in Estate of Isom v. Barham, the jury had a very difficult decision to make. At the conclusion of the trial, the jury in Williamson County Illinois deliberated for four hours before awarding a $1 million verdict against Barham.
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