A Illinois Cook County jury has found in favor of the family of a BMW salesman in its wrongful death suit against a man who took a test drive and crashed the car, killing the salesman.
The jury awarded Roger Czapski’s family $13.7 million, concluding that Christopher Maher was liable for Czapski’s death Aug. 4, 2004 in South Barrington, Illinois.
On the day of the crash, Maher, then 20, went to the BMW dealership where Czapski worked, presented his driver’s license and took out a 2003 530i sedan for a test drive. Czapski, 22, sat in the front passenger seat, while two of Maher’s friends sat in the rear.
The BMW clipped the front end of a 2002 Saturn making a left turn, then swerved and hit a light pole. The front passenger side of the car took the brunt of the impact, police said.
Maher was ejected. He and his two friends suffered serious injuries but survived. Czapski was pronounced dead at a local hospital about 90 minutes later.
Witnesses, including the two back-seat passengers, testified at trial that the BMW was traveling about 95 miles per hour at impact.
In arguments, Maher’s attorneys said Czapski was at least partially to blame for his own death, telling jurors that Czapski said to Maher during the drive “Now it’s your turn. Open it up” and that Czapski never told Maher he had to slow down.
In October 2005 Maher pleaded guilty to aggravated speeding in connection with the crash. He was sentenced to one year of probation and 30 days of community service at the Cook County medical examiner’s office.
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