WHEELING – A jury awarded $3 million to the family of a Wheeling Jesuit University student who died following a street altercation.
On July 31, the jury deliberated for less than four hours and found that Tyler Johnson was 75 percent at fault for the death of Kevin Figaniak. The trial lasted five days.
The jury found that Craig Tyler Peacock, who was previously acquitted of involuntary manslaughter charges, was found 13 percent at fault. It also found that Jarrett Chandler, who previously pled guilty to involuntary manslaughter in connection with Figaniak’s death, was 6 percent responsible. The jury also found that Figaniak was 6 percent responsible for his own death.
Additionally, the jury awarded $1.25 million in punitive damages against Johnson.
On Aug. 31, 2013, Figaniak was unconscious following a street altercation with two pipeline workers in Wheeling. Johnson, who was Figaniak’s lacross teammate, refused to get him medical attention and, instead, dragged him to his apartment. At some point along the way, Johnson dropped Figaniak on his head on the cement street.
The plaintiffs, Thomas Figaniak and Valerie Figaniak, alleged in their 2015 lawsuit that their son would have survived the beating if Johnson had immediately called 911.
“The jury’s verdict sent a clear message — when your friend needs medical attention, you need to stop thinking about yourself and instead get them help,” said Jeffrey P. Goodman of Saltz, Mongeluzzi, Barrett & Bendesky . “Had Tyler Johnson done that, Kevin would still be alive today.”
Goodman said by finding Johnson 75 percent responsible and holding him accountable for punitive damages, the jury definitively stated that Kevin Figaniak’s death was the fault of Johnson.
“From the start, Kevin’s family wanted justice for their child, and to send a message to others about how to act when someone — close friend or total stranger —is in distress,” said Guy R. Bucci of Hendrickson & Long. “The jury’s adamant verdict can’t bring back their son, but it was fair and it was just. And they are grateful.”
Under West Virginia law, Johnson is jointly and severally liable for the full damages award by virtue of being found 75 percent responsible.
Goodman said the legal team fully expects to collect the full damages award.
Johnson, through his insurance carrier, only offered to settle the case for $25,000 before trial and never increased that offer during trial.
Kevin Figaniak died on Sept. 1, 2013, in a Pittsburgh hospital.
U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia case number: 5:15-cv-00111