A Washington County civil jury put full responsibility for David Hudson’s 2007 death on the driver who struck him on State of Franklin Road in what one person called a “hollow victory.”
Hudson was killed Dec. 13, 2007, as he crossed State of Franklin from a parking lot to the Second Level Club. David Lee Wilcox, now 61, was convicted of vehicular homicide by reckless conduct, although he was intoxicated when the crash happened.
Wilcox is serving five years in the Washington County Detention Center for the conviction.
Hudson’s parents, Dr. Larry and Sandy Hudson, sued Wilcox to clear their son’s name. Wilcox claimed Hudson walked out in front of him that night and Wilcox’s intoxication had nothing to do with the fatal crash.
The jury awarded the Hudsons $6,027,755 in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages. That decision came after the jury deliberated about three and a half hours.
The compensatory damages include $7,531 in medical treatment for David Hudson and $10,224 for funeral costs. As part of Wilcox’s criminal trial verdict, he was also ordered to pay restitution to cover Hudson’s funeral costs.
Wilcox’s attorney, R. Kreis White, argued that punitive damages were not the “proper tool” in the case to deter Wilcox and others who might drive intoxicated. He said punitive damages were more appropriate in a case such as a restaurant’s “reaping profits” from serving scalding coffee that burns patrons.
The Hudsons’ attorney, Albert J. Harb, asked the jury to set punitive damages at what the panel felt was appropriate.
It’s unlikely the Hudsons will ever receive any money from the judgment.
Wilcox briefly testified that he owns no property, doesn’t have a job because he’s in jail and has about $100 in a bank account.
Harb pointed out to the jury that Wilcox had hired a high-profile attorney for his criminal trial, but Wilcox said he borrowed the money from his family for that.
The death occurred around 11 p.m. as Hudson was crossing State of Franklin from a parking area and heading toward the Second Level Club.
He had gone there with a friend and returned to his car for something before crossing the road again.
Police investigators said they believe Wilcox was not using his headlights, which prevented Hudson from effectively seeing the oncoming vehicle.
Hudson was hit at an angle from behind, with the initial impact on the back of his right knee.
Johnson City Police Lt. Larry Williams testified that, in his opinion, Wilcox did not apply his brakes before hitting Hudson because if he had, the impact area would have been lower on Hudson’s leg.
The impact tossed Hudson onto Wilcox’s windshield and over the car before he hit the pavement.