Wheeling, WV — A Federal Court Jury awarded $3 million in damages to the parents of Kevin Figaniak, the 21-year-old Wheeling Jesuit University student who died on Labor Day weekend in 2013 from traumatic head injuries following a street altercation.
On August 31, 2013, Kevin was unconscious following a street altercation with two pipeline workers in Wheeling. Following the incident, Tyler Johnson, Kevin’s friend and lacrosse teammate, refused to get him medical attention. Instead, he tried to drag the battered victim to his apartment. On the way, Johnson dropped Kevin headfirst to the cement street. After less than four hours of deliberations, the jury found Johnson 75% at fault for Kevin’s death. Additionally, it awarded $1.25 million in punitive damages against Johnson.
Jarrett Chandler, who previously pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter in connection with Kevin’s death, was found 6% responsible. Craig Tyler Peacock, who was previously acquitted of involuntary manslaughter charges, was found 13% at fault. Johnson was not charged in the criminal case.
Jeffrey P. Goodman, of Philadelphia-based Saltz, Mongeluzzi, Barrett & Bendesky, P.C., and West Virginia attorney Guy R. Bucci, of Hendrickson & Long, PLLC, represented the Bucks County, Pennsylvania family of Kevin Figaniak. They were in the courtroom when the jury delivered its verdict at the end of the five-day trial in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia. Their lawsuit asserted that Kevin would have survived the beating if only Johnson had immediately called 911.
“The jury’s verdict sent a clear message – ‘when your friend needs medical attention – you need to stop thinking about yourself and instead get them help.’ Had Tyler Johnson done that, Kevin would still be alive today,” stated Mr. Goodman. “By finding Johnson 75% responsible and holding him accountable for punitive damages, the jury definitively stated that Kevin’s death was the fault of his supposed friend, Tyler Johnson.”
Mr. Bucci added, “From the start, Kevin’s family wanted justice for their child, and to send a message to others about how to act when someone – close friend or total stranger – is in distress. The jury’s adamant verdict can’t bring back their son, but it was fair and it was just. And they are grateful.”
Under West Virginia law, Johnson is jointly and severally liable for the full damages award by virtue of being found 75% responsible. Mr. Goodman said the legal team fully expects to collect the full damages award. Johnson, through his insurance carrier, only offered to settle the case for $25,000 before trial and never increased that offer during trial.
Figaniak died in a Pittsburgh hospital the day after the altercation. The two pipeline workers – one from Florida, the other Louisiana -were also found liable, but to a much lesser degree than Johnson. Unlike Johnson, they have both expressed remorse for their actions.
Mr. Goodman and Mr. Bucci commended the trial judge and lauded the jury.
Trial lawyers Jeffrey P. Goodman and Guy R. Bucci represented family of lacrosse star Kevin Figaniak