What price for the life of a son; revisited.

It’s been a little under two and a half years since my best friend was killed by a Traffic Ordinance Officer with delusions of grandeur. On February 28th, 2003 I wrote an entry about the lawsuit Bill’s family filed against the City of Dearborn just eight days after the accident. Their attorney, Geoffrey Fieger, who’s best known for defending Jack “Dr. Death” Kevorkian, announced they were asking for $250 million in damages at the time. A number that would obviously never come to pass. After two years of legal wrangling— where there was talk of possible out-of-court settlements and the other assorted things that happen to drag things out—the case went to a jury trial this past July 18th and concluded on July 28th. Depending on which news account you read the final award was between $22.5 and $25 million dollars. $10 million for Bill’s “conscious pain and suffering” and $12.53 million in compensatory damages.

It’s taken me a few days to get this entry together; in part because I’ve started it over at least four times now. It’s not that it’s too hard to talk about Bill’s death these days, but because every time I read the comments of City of Dearborn’s attorney, C.F. “Chip” Boyle, about the award it ends up pissing me off and the entry degenerates into one long rant.

Testimony indicated Owen lost consciousness about 90 seconds after the crash, Boyle said. In awarding $10 million for pain and suffering, he said, “this jury believed each second of his conscious life was worth $111,000. … It’s simply unprecedented.

“We are extremely confident the Michigan Court of Appeals will not sustain this excessive verdict.”

What an asshole. Tell you what, “Chip,” you bring Bill back and you can keep the $25 million. I don’t think there’s anyone among Bill’s friends and family who would disagree with me on that statement. If nothing else, the final award is a mere 10% of the quarter of a billion dollars that was originally asked for when the lawsuit was filed. I admit I’m no expert on what the typical jury award for a case like this tends to be or what the final amount actually ends up being after all the appeals play out, but this doesn’t seem too unreasonable of an award considering some of the headline making lawsuits we’ve all heard about in the past that has resulted in truly ridiculous judgments. It’s not even so much the fact that the amount will probably be reduced during the appeals process that upsets me as much as it’s “Chip’s” comment about each second of Bill’s conscious life during the very short and very excruciating period he was alive immediately after having his ribcage crushed by a police cruiser. Had I been there to hear him make that comment I would have given him a very hearty “fuck you” with the appropriate hand gesture as an added bonus.

Bill wasn’t just a best friend of 23 years, he was as close to me as a brother and losing him left a deep wound that’ll never completely heal. Knowing how bad it pains me I can imagine what it must be like for his mother and his actual brothers and sisters. My primary concern is that they are taken care of in a reasonable fashion so that Bill’s death at least has some good come out of it. No one wants to bankrupt the City of Dearborn, but we do want the family to get a reasonable compensation for their loss. A loss which is, really, priceless in many ways.

After all, what price do you pay for the life of a son?

14 thoughts on “What price for the life of a son; revisited.

  1. Les, I normally don’t post on these because there is nothing that I can say, but that I feel for you.  Losing someone close before his time always sucks.

  2. this jury believed each second of his conscious life was worth $111,000. … It’s simply unprecedented

    This guy obviously needs to be stripped of all assets, made berift of job, and kicked a few times.

    That being said, I am tired of seeing the insanely high lawsuits in this country, especially at the expense of tax dollars. Then again, our government pisses it away anywise, it may as well go to good people that can use it.

    Quick aside: asshat corporations that screw people in search of the bottom dollar are an exception to this. They need to have their assets divided among those they are screwing and their boards of directors jailed.

    Back on topic: There is no price that can be paid that will make up for the loss of your friends life.

    The humane thing to do (imo) would be to:
    a) apologize sincerely. Not profusely, sincerely. If that is not done, nothing else holds any meaning.

    b) pay off their current debt.

    c) Give them ~2 million dollars (more than enough to sustain a family of 4-5 comfortably forever if they know what to do with it)

    d) Educate them in finances so that neither they nor any of their decendants will need to work again.

    e) If not already done, fire the schmuck that did this and take their liscense away.

    I do not mean to be cold or heartless, only to point out that most who are given huge sums of money quickly lose it…and the judgement (from the sounds of it) comes at the expense of the locals there rather than the expense of the idiot that did this. A better thing to do would be to give them enough money and education about money so that they never need for it again. However noting how much ones life is or is not worth is just sick.

    Again, the quote above is in terrible taste and those who run this country need to stop treating us peasants as numbers. If they have nothing worthwhile to say, they should stfu.

  3. Religion – 2 million dollars

    I guess you didn’t know that their are 8 people listed on the lawsuit for family and then you didn’t subtract office fees for the attorneys, then the 1/3 that automatically goes to the attorneys and the another 8% because it is being appealed and wait, lets not forget the 36.8% that has to be paid by each person awarded to the US GOVERNMENT in taxes within 90 days of receiveing that money.  It has nothing to do with his family being over paid, they want justice because the fucking idiot that killed him is walking free.  If you or I killed a person in the way William was killed, we’d have been arrested, hand-cuffed and booked (Agron was booked and not even present for it, but he wasn’t finger printed or any of that fun stuff that happens the us normal people.  I know this because I know 2 cops at the Dearborn Police Department and could tell you more!), and yes some jail time and if you have money or know the right people then it would be little jail time.  The family wants justice and if it means hurting the City for allowing that idiot on the road then that sounds fair to me too.  Doing the numbers you would realize it takes more than $2m to do what you’re saying.  Yes I agree that $25m is a bit much, but no one can put a price on a human life, even the bad ones out there.

    Yes, I could talk politics and show you many examples of how fucked up our government can be, but guess what?  I was born here, so was my father, his father, his father, his father and his father.  If this country is so messed up, then WHY DOES EVERYONE WANT TO BE HERE? And if everyone thinks its that bad then leave!  Don’t answer that, because I know many reasons and they don’t matter.

    To anyone and everyone responding negatively to Les’s or my post;

    Point is:  William Vesper Owen IV, was a very important and special person to everyone he knew.  He was the foundation underneath his family’s feet, the best of friend to all his friends and the kinda guy everyone wishes they could be.  PERIOD!!!  Unless you or anyone experiences what his family has, none of you have room too talk.  If you have a child, and he or she was killed in the same way William was, or a Brother that was your Best Friend and Father killed, or a Sister that was your Support and Teacher then you might have an idea how his family feels.

    Until anyone can give proof that these things have happened to them, shut the fuck up!

  4. No amount of money can make up for losing a loved one; even $250 million wouldn’t suffice.  However, the award to the family should be large enough that it’s somewhat “painful” to pay out, in order to approximate for the city in some way the painful loss the family has endured.

    It’s not about putting a price on the life of someone, but about seeing justice done.  In all fairness the cop who killed Bill should at least be doing SOME time in jail, period.  That he’s “walking free” and hasn’t faced any punishment is justification enough for the family to fight for as much money as they can get out of the guilty party’s employer.

    My heart goes out to Bill’s family and friends.  May you see justice served.

  5. Sorry if I came off as negative.

    I should have noted that I feel what I put down to be fair and just providing that it was done immediately. Dragging these types of things through the court system for prolonged periods when a family has experienced such a loss is neither fair nor just in my opinion.

    Anywise, as you note, I know few of the details and will say only that I wish the best for those of you dealing with this.

  6. Point is:  William Vesper Owen IV, was a very important and special person to everyone he knew.  He was the foundation underneath his family’s feet, the best of friend to all his friends and the kinda guy everyone wishes they could be.  PERIOD!!!  Unless you or anyone experiences what his family has, none of you have room too talk.  If you have a child, and he or she was killed in the same way William was, or a Brother that was your Best Friend and Father killed, or a Sister that was your Support and Teacher then you might have an idea how his family feels.

    Until anyone can give proof that these things have happened to them, shut the fuck up!

    Now, I’m generally pretty open-minded, and I deeply sympathize with those affected by this man’s death.  It’s tragic, and unfortunate, and if you want to apply a moral value to it, you can go ahead and say that it’s just plain wrong that he had to die in that way.

    That being said, there’s an awful lot of gall to define a set of criteria YOU (Kirk) demand from someone before YOU feel they have the right to post an opinion.

    The fact is, Kirk, you have no idea what someone else’s perspective is, what kinds of losses they have suffered, how they can relate to the situation.  But apparently, not only does someone have to experience the loss of someone equally close, but they also have to lose them under the same or similar circumstance, THEN provide you with proof (I assume newspaper articles will suffice, or do you need crime scene photos and DNA analysis as well?) before their opinion on the court award is valid.

    No one, by saying such a system is broken, is diminishing the loss felt by the family or friends of William, because no amount of money can ever be enough.  The person who committed the crime isn’t going to be paying the money, the people of Dearborn are.  Where does the city get the money?  From taxpayers.  Who pays the majority of the taxes?  The middle class.  So essentially, every outraged citizen who sympathizes with the family will be paying their settlement, either through increased taxes or reduced services.

    I absolutely believe the family is entitled to some compensation, but there should be a way to make those involved responsible for the recompense.  The officer involved, as well as his direct supervisor should be fired, divested from their union, and charged.  The officer at a minimum should be charged with manslaughter if not murder, and the jail time should be maxed out.  Alternately, put him in a room with 25 randomly selected friends and family members of the victim, and give each of them a loaded gun (except the officer, of course).

    As far as monetary value, I would pay the salaries of the officer and his supervisor to the family for the next sixty years, with a compensation factor for inflation.  Say, 100K per year for sixty years.  This amount represents what the city would have had to pay for the salaries, plus they will have to pay that same amount out to people hired to replace the offenders.  This hurts them to the tune of 6 million over the course of 60 years, but doesn’t unduly burden the taxpayers in the here and now.

  7. Kirk didn’t mention this, and I hope I don’t upset him by divulging it myself, but he’s Bill’s brother. I spent an hour or so on the phone with him talking about the whole situation and the comment he left and he agrees that it’s not fair to put qualifications on who can and can’t comment on the issue. He’s just highly frustrated with how things have turned out during this whole process, which is understandable given it’s his brother we’re talking about. I only mention this so that you have a bit of perspective on why Kirk left the comment he did.

    I did make it clear, however, that I don’t believe everyone has to have similar experiences before they are qualified to comment on them. There are issues worthy of discussion here that apply above and beyond the matter of Bill’s death and I think it’s a good thing to encourage such discussions.

  8. And it’s still very sad, unfortunate and wrong.  All the more tragic because it’s obvious that William had a very powerful and positive impact on the lives of those around him.  THAT, IMO, should be what those left behind cling to, and not the tortured existence that comes from protracted legal vengeance.

    I’ll admit that I can barely imagine the anger one would feel toward another human being in this kind of situation.  In the last fifteen years, I’ve lost 4 grandparents, both parents, two children, and a number of close friends.  All died from relatively “natural causes” so it’s pretty hard to focus your anger on a target in that situation.  Does that make my grief less, because I don’t have a focus for my rage?  It’s still a fucked deal.  I find it offensive when people think they have more of a right to anger and indignation because of the manner of death.  The dead are still dead, and it’s us left who have to make our way.

    The closest I came was when my wife and I had stillborn twins. (Naturally, some will diminish this grief because we never got to know them, but that’s as may be.)  We knew something was wrong, because she’d had problems with her first pregnancy, but thankfully my son turned out fine from that one.  However, the medical staff at the military hospital were adamant that we didn’t know what we were talking about, and that there was absolutely nothing wrong with her.

    After the death of the babies, the anger at the medical staff, the depression, the grieving, we considered legal action.  When we went to go get her medical records from the pregnancy, we found they had shredded them.  The record technician indicated this was standard practice. 

    At this point, we were very much angry, and we were bound and determined to sue the government.  A very good lawyer friend of ours, who was more than willing to take the case, told us what he had observed from these types of things.  No amount of money will restore your loss, or punish those who are guilty sufficiently.  Your life becomes focused on exacting your revenge through a protracted legal process, fueling your grief and anger for years to come.  When the resolution finally comes, the majority of people he dealt with said they still felt empty inside.

    We decided that wasn’t how we wanted to live.  Life is ugly, grotesque, and some very shitty fucking raw deals come to people who don’t deserve them.  We both wanted to move on, and be good parents to our remaining child, to raise him in a home full of love and hope, and not resentment and anger. 

    I can’t presume to know how another feels, but I hope that you all find peace with yourselves.  In my experience, grief isn’t something that gradually burns itself out, or that you can extinguish by punishing the wicked.  It’s a long, slow, painful process that gradually becomes easier with time.

  9. I’m hardly an expert, not knowing Bill and being fortunate enough not to have gone through anything like this in my life, but I think anything short of the guy who did it being sent to jail on manslaughter or perhaps even murder charges is an automatic failure of justice.

    The city should shut up and pay up, and never let it happen again.

  10. Much more eloquently stated than I stated it Skippy.

    The problem with what I have read here about this whole thing is that justice has not been served in any form.

    The one who hit him should have been charged and convicted of manslaughter just as any of us would have been had we done the same to someone in the precincts child.

    When the enforcers of the law are above the law, justice cannot be served.

    Not long back, here in seattle we had a judge involved in a hit and run, killing the victim. After the first evening of news, there was a virtual blackout about the event and it was stated that the judge was far too necessary to the city to be allowed to face charges.

    Allowing government officials to pay tax money to victims of their crimes instead of serving the time that you or I would serve is not justice.

    Getting the officer responsible put away and charging all involved in not letting him face trial with obstruction of justice (in addition to firing them without pension) would be justice. A tall order in this country these days…

    Anywise, grief does only ebb with time and I apologize if I have caused more as that was never my intention.

    Be well and may those responsible eventually get what they deserve.

  11. Mr Boyle is nothing short of dispicable for making the comment he did. Whether or not he feels the compensation is appropriate, it’s vile and disrespectful to voice it in the manner that he did.


  12. I would liked to have seen less money and more jail time.  Agron Seiko got a slap on the wrist.  Not a day behind bars.

    I’m just guessing here, but I’m pretty sure that if I had gone joy riding and killed a cop, things would have turned out differently.  Call me crazy.

    God bless ya, Bill, wherever you are.  Peace, bro.

  13. I agree with Daryl.  I kinda sat and stared at that pic of Bill you put out there (on another thread), Les.  I’m sitting in the same chair, same place as when I heard the terrible news that winter’s day.  Makes me miss him all the more…

    That pudknocker “Chip” doesn’t get it.  It wasn’t about those 90 seconds, dammit.  It was about the 91st, 92nd, 93rd and the tens of thousands of seconds more we won’t have him with us.  And by those mathematics, the city’s getting off cheap.

  14. Two years ago when I heard about Bill’s death I was still heart broken even though I hadn’t seen him in long time.  He was that type of guy.  One that you never forget and that always has a place in the heart.  But for the dick, I mean Chip, to say these things was well fucked up.  I’m so sorry Les and Kirk that this man could make such a thoughtless statement.

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