O’Connell v. WalmsleyAnnotate this Case
Jason Goffe and Michael Petrarca were high-speed racing when Goffe lost control of his vehicle and whirled into the eastbound lane. William Walmsley struck Goffe’s vehicle, killing Goffe and his passenger, Brendan O’Connell Roberti. Roberti’s parents (Plaintiffs) sued several defendants, including Walmsley. Because of settlement releases, Walmsley was the sole defendant who advanced to trial. A jury found Walmsley negligent and that his negligence was a proximate cause of Roberti’s death. Defendant moved for judgment as a matter of law, which the trial justice granted. Plaintiffs moved for a new trial and requested an additur to $250,000. The trial justice ruled conditionally that, if Defendant’s motion for judgment as a matter of law was overturned on appeal, he would grant Plaintiffs’ motion for additur. The Supreme Court vacated the superior court’s judgment and remanded for additional proceedings. On remand, Plaintiffs sought judgment against Walmsley for $250,000 per the additur. The hearing justice granted summary judgment for Defendant, finding that because Plaintiffs settled their claims against Goffe and Petrarca in the amount of $395,000, there was no basis for holding Walmsley individually liable for $250,000. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the Wrongful Death Act is subject to joint and several liability principles.