Jury Awards $61.7 Million to Parents of High School Baseball Player Killed in Traffic Collision

HAWTHORNE, California — A jury in Inglewood Superior Court awarded over $61.7 million to the parents of Jesse Esphorst Jr., a 16-year-old high school baseball player who was killed in a traffic collision in 2017. The jury found that two drivers involved in the crash were at fault after deliberation on Tuesday, according to the attorney representing Jesse’s mother.

The fatal collision occurred on March 7, 2017, at the intersection of Crenshaw Boulevard and Crest Road. Jesse Esphorst Sr., Jesse Jr.’s father, was driving their minivan and attempting to make a left turn onto Crest Road from southbound Crenshaw Boulevard. At that moment, a car and an SUV struck their vehicle, resulting in Jesse Jr.’s tragic death.

The two other drivers involved in the crash were Darryl Hicks and Tung Ming. Prior to the collision, Hicks cut off Ming to make an illegal U-turn near the intersection of Crenshaw and Silver Spur Road in Rolling Hills Estates. This caused a fender bender between their vehicles, leading to a pursuit. Ming, on the phone with a 911 operator, was instructed to obtain the license plate of the car that hit him.

Hicks ran a red light, and his speeding car clipped the Esphorst’s minivan. Moments later, Ming’s SUV collided head-on with the minivan. While Ming remained at the scene, Hicks fled and was eventually apprehended several days later.

According to court documents, the wrongful death damages awarded to Jesse Esphorst Jr.’s mother, Julie Esphorst, totaled $23.5 million. Additionally, his father, Jesse Esphorst Sr., was awarded $36.5 million for both wrongful death damages and injuries. Julie Esphorst’s attorney, Robert Clayton, stated that this verdict provides some support to the family as they navigate their lives in the wake of this unimaginable tragedy.

During the criminal trial, both Hicks and Ming were convicted of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence and reckless driving causing injury or death. Hicks also faced two hit-and-run charges and charges for driving on a suspended or revoked license. While Ming received a more than two-year prison sentence in June 2020, Hicks was sentenced to 11 years in state prison two months later.

In the civil trial, the jury found Ming to be 95% at fault for the crash, with Hicks being 5% at fault. As a result, punitive damages of $2 million were awarded against Ming and $18,000 against Hicks. The Esphorsts had previously reached a $6.5 million settlement with Los Angeles County in April 2022 on a claim of negligence regarding the 911 operator.

The tragic loss of Jesse Esphorst Jr. continues to be mourned by his family and community. The significant monetary compensation provided by the jury will help support the Esphorsts as they navigate their lives in the aftermath of this devastating event.