St. Charles County, Missouri – A St. Charles County jury has awarded $75 million in a verdict to the parents of a young man who died in a fatal police chase. The jury found defendant Aron Richardson liable for the death of 21-year-old Krystofer Batsell, with $50 million awarded for actual damages and an additional $25 million in damages for aggravating circumstances.
On November 17, 2018, Richardson was fleeing from St. Charles police when he ran a red light and struck Batsell, resulting in his death. Richardson pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, drug possession, intoxication, and resisting arrest in 2019 and was subsequently sentenced to 15 years in prison.
The parents of the deceased, Ken and Connie Batsell, filed a lawsuit against Richardson, alleging wrongful death and negligence per se. Their attorney, J.C. Pleban, expressed satisfaction with the verdict, stating that it provided some measure of justice for his clients. He highlighted the significance of the $25 million in punitive damages and $50 million in actual damages, emphasizing the impact and value of their son’s life.
The plaintiffs had initially offered to settle the case for the policy limits of $25,000 in bodily injury and $25,000 in property damage coverage. However, State Farm, the insurer, countered with an offer of $25,000 along with additional insureds in the release, which the Batsells viewed as a rejection of the settlement and an act of bad faith.
The defendant’s attorney, James Hodges, did not respond to a request for comment. In post-trial motions, the defense argued that the insurer never rejected the original settlement offer and asserted that the judge should have enforced it.
Previously, the Batsells had also pursued claims against St. Charles County and the police officer involved in the pursuit of Richardson. However, a judge granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants in 2020, citing official immunity. This ruling was affirmed by the Court of Appeals Eastern District in an unpublished order.
Richardson’s attorneys contended that the jury should have been given the opportunity to determine whether the police were responsible for the crash by failing to terminate the pursuit. They argued that the immunity defense did not absolve the police of responsibility.
Key facts: The St. Charles County jury awarded $75 million in a verdict to the parents of Krystofer Batsell, who died in a police chase. The verdict included $50 million for actual damages and $25 million for aggravating circumstances. Richardson, the defendant, pleaded guilty to multiple charges and received a 15-year prison sentence. The Batsells initially offered to settle for the policy limits, but State Farm countered with a different offer. The defense has filed motions arguing that the original settlement offer was not rejected and should have been enforced. The Batsells’ claims against the county and the pursuing officer were dismissed due to official immunity. Richardson’s attorneys believe the jury should have decided whether the police were responsible for the crash.