Mother’s prayer for punitive damages dismissed in fatal high speed collision case

By Heather Isringhausen Gvillo | May 4, 2015

St. Clair County Circuit Judge Vincent Lopinot dismissed a mother’s prayer for punitive damages in a wrongful death suit resulting from a collision at 100 miles per hour.

Lisa Ferrarie-Darron of Caseyville, whose daughter Mercedes Ferrarie-Troisi died last year at age 18, sued Donald Friese and three others in St. Clair County circuit court on July 11.

Represented by George Albers of Roth Law Offices in Granite City, Ferrarie-Darron claims Friese drove at an excessive speed and failed to control his vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The defendants have denied the allegations against them. They accuse the decedent of hanging out of the window of the vehicle while it was moving.

Friese allegedly chased a Buick LeSabre in a GMC Yukon and struck the Buick, causing it to crash at Collinsville Road and 47th Street in Fairmont City.

Last year, state’s attorney Brendan Kelly charged Friese with murder or action creating a strong possibility of killing or injuring another.

Ferrarie-Darron also seeks damages from Dennis Torres of St. Louis, owner of the Yukon.

She claims Torres created an unreasonable risk of harm to others by giving control of his vehicle to Friese.

“Dennis Torres knew Donald Friese was an unlawful driver. Dennis Torres knew Donald Friese was under the influence of alcohol or drugs,” the suit states.

Ferrarie-Darron also seeks damages from Gina Torres of Collinsville, a passenger in the Yukon and Friese’s fiance.

The plaintiff alleges Gina Torres hit the Buick with objects, threatened Buick driver Brandy Hayes of Collinsville, and told Friese to drive unlawfully.

Ferrarie-Darron also seeks wrongful death damages and punitive damages from Hayes.

She claims Hayes sped and violated a duty of ordinary care while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Friese has remained in jail since the crash.

On Sept. 29, Friese filed a counterclaim against Hayes, saying she was driving the vehicle of which the decedent was a passenger at the time of the accident. He accuses Hayes of failing to keep a proper lookout, permitting her vehicle to collide with the other vehicle, driving at an excessive speed, and operating her vehicle in a careless manner, among other allegations.

Ferrarie-Darron filed a motion to amend the complaint on Feb. 9, requesting an opportunity to add punitive damages against the defendants for willful and wanton misconduct.

Hayes objected to the plaintiff’s motion for leave to amend the complaint on Feb. 24 through attorneys Dominique N. Seymoure and Jennifer M. Wagner of Reed, Armstrong, Mudge & Morrissey in Edwardsville.

“Plaintiff cannot, as a matter of law, recover punitive damages under the Wrongful Death Act. It has long been the law in Illinois that, as a general rule, the right to seek punitive damages for personal injuries ends with the death of the injured part,” the objection states.

Hayes also argues that the Survival Act prohibits a prayer for punitive damages.

Lopinot dismissed the plaintiff’s request to seek punitive damages. However, he granted her the opportunity to amend the complaint to seek funeral and medical expenses. He scheduled a status conference for May 11 at 9 a.m.

David O. Hesi of Bingley, Hart & Hesi in St. Louis represents Friese, Dennis Torres and Gina Torres. Bradley R. Hansmann of Brown & James in St. Louis also represents Friese.

St. Clair County Circuit Court case number 14-L-544

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