Punitive Damages: A Necessary Deterrent

Our firm handled a wrongful death, truck accident involving a driver that was operating his tractor-trailer under the influence of drugs at the time of the tragic incident. A wrongful death of an innocent person occurred in large part because the truck driver was under the influence of methamphetamine which is a known dangerous drug, particularly in the context of a commercially licensed truck driver. While no amount of money can compensate the family for this tragic and senseless death, nonetheless, when aggravating circumstances such as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol are present in a particular serious injury or wrongful death case, punitive damages are necessary in order to deter other wrongdoers from future similar acts of misconduct. They are also necessary to punish the offender.

arrested manIn this particular case, not only was the truck driver operating his truck while under the influence of dangerous intoxicating drugs (he also had benzoids in his bloodstream), he had taken other steps to avoid detection by law enforcement and regulatory officials. Indeed, in this particular case, the truck driver had secreted with his waistband two urine vials which he could use to deceive regulatory officials if he was stopped and asked for a urine sample. In short, he knew exactly what he was doing and took steps to conceal his drug use by having available urine vials hidden within his waistband so that he could give a urine sample without being apprehended for illegal drug usage by law enforcement. Unfortunately for the driver, in this particular case, the police officers conducted a thorough search, found the urine vials and charged the driver with vehicular homicide.

Punitive damages have long been necessary to punish wrongdoers and to deter similar acts of wrongdoing in the future. While it is well known that many truck drivers are operating their rigs while under the influence of intoxicating drugs, particularly uppers, speed and other similar intoxicants, the hope, of course, is that if juries impose significant punitive damages in cases like this, this may deter others from engaging in similar conduct. The senseless tragedy brought about by the wrongful act cannot be compensated in any event but, when juries are willing to impose additional penalties on top of other available damages, we believe that juries can send strong messages that they will punish those who engage in this type of egregious misconduct. If the financial punishment is severe enough, hopefully, deterrence of others will be the end result.



About Richard Hendrix

Richard W. Hendrix is a former state and federal prosecutor who has more than 30 years of experience in complex civil and criminal litigation. He has also served as a mediator in Alternative Dispute Resolutions (ADR).

Since joining Finch McCranie in 1985, Mr. Hendrix has built an extensive litigation practice focusing on wrongful death and serious personal injury cases as well as federal white collar criminal defense cases. He has successfully represented injured parties in personal injury cases throughout the state of Georgia. Mr. Hendrix has also effectively defended business and individuals, including a former US Congressman, against indictments and grand jury investigations. In 2006 and 2008-2012, he was selected to Georgia Super Lawyers.

He is admitted to practice in Georgia and South Carolina. Mr. Hendrix is licensed to appear before the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia and the District of South Carolina as well as the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, Fifth Circuit, and Eleventh Circuit.

From 1979-1985, Mr. Hendrix served as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia. He was also Associate Independent Counsel for the investigation of the Department of Housing and Urban Development from 1991-1992.

Mr. Hendrix graduated with cum laude honors from Davidson College and he received his law degree from Emory University. Since 1992, Mr. Hendrix has been an Adjunct Professor of Litigation at Georgia State University College of Law. He is also a Master of the Bench with the Lamar American Inn of Court where he works to enhance the professional, ethics and skills of the legal community.

Mr. Hendrix has also authored numerous articles including: “High Speed Police Chases and Injured Innocent By-Standers,” The Verdict (Summer, 2015) “Tolling the Statute of Limitations in Tort Cases for Victims of a Crime,” The Verdict (Fall, 2007); “A Refresher On the Federal Tort Claims Act,” The Verdict (Winter, 1999); “Rule 16 and the Jencks Act: A Need for Legal Reform,” Calendar Call (Winter, 1996); “Corporate Criminal Liability: The Need for Effective Compliance Programs,” South Carolina Lawyer (March/April, 1993); “Crossing State Lines in Wrongful Death Actions: Traps for the Unwary,” The Verdict (Fall, 1990); and “White Collar Crime: New Tools for Prosecution,” The Atlanta Lawyer (Summer, 1986)