Judge orders woman who struck motorcyclist in DUI crash to pay $1 million

Oct 7, 2011

The following article was published on October 7, 2011 in the Naples Daily News:

Judge orders woman who struck motorcyclist in DUI crash to pay $1 million

By Sabina Bhasin

An East Naples woman who spent three years in prison after crashing into a motorcyclist while under the influence of alcohol in 2006 was ordered Friday to pay the man nearly $1 million in restitution.

However, It is uncertain if the victim, Harold James, will see any of the money, because Stacey Renee Teague, 43, said she doesn’t own any assets and has no income.

Collier Circuit Judge Fred Hardt ordered Teague to pay the money after a one hour restitution hearing on Friday. At the hearing James testified he accumulated more than $1 million in medical bills and more than $200,000 in lost wages from five years of unemployment.

James was riding his motorcycle north on Airport-Pulling road on Oct. 5, 2006, when he was struck by Teague who was turning onto Pine Ridge Road. Teague had a blood alcohol level of 0.27 percent, three times the legal limit, according to a Collier County Sheriff’s arrest report.

Now living on disability in a double-wide trailer in South Carolina, James, 55, came to the hearing alone. He said after his wife also lost her job, they could no longer afford their home in River Reach off of Airport-Pulling Road.

“We basically left here running,” James said.

James said he was an avid athlete before the crash. Now he can’t bend over. Before the crash, he said he bench pressed 350 pounds and could squat 500 pounds.

The accident caused severe injuries including a shattered pelvis, kidney failure, and collapsed lungs. He no longer has muscle on his upper left arm, and takes painkillers regularly under a doctor’s supervision to tolerate the constant pain.

“The only thing holding me together was muscle tissue,” he said.

As James detailed his injuries in court, Teague began to cry.

James now walks with a cane as the surgery on his right leg has caused permanent damage.

“I have a drop foot, which means, it doesn’t tilt,” James said.

In the two months he spent at the hospital in Fort Lauderdale, he burned through his entire insurance coverage — $1 million. He was no longer permitted to stay at the hospital, a fate that caused his pelvis to not heal properly.

“New Year’s Eve they told me I had to leave the facility,” James said. “My insurance was up. Blue Cross Blue Shield cut me off.”

When Erik Leontiev of the State Attorney’s Office showed photographs of James in the hospital, Teague’s muffled cries became audible wails. James briefly looked at the photos only to acknowledge them for evidence and set them aside. Tears began to fall from his eyes as well.

“I always stayed away from the photos,” James said after the hearing. “I didn’t care to see. That’s what got me today.”

James told the court he now has $34,721.14 remaining in medical bills.

James said he used to earn a net income of $4,200 a month. Since losing his jobs Leontiev said James lost $252,000. Hardt said James will also lose $504,000 in future income until he can earn Social Security

For past and future pain and suffering Hardt ruled Teague pay $200,000.

The total sum Hardt ruled Teague pay in restitution was $990,721.14.

Teague, a former road designer for a prominent Naples engineering firm, pled no contest to DUI with serious bodily injury in the crash. At her hearing in May of 2008 she was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in state prison.

Released in May, she is now serving 11/2 years of probation for which she must pay $52 a month.

Teague did not have an attorney at Friday’s hearing.

She filed for a public defender 34 minutes before her 1:30 p.m. hearing. Hardt said she had 50 days to request a public defender and didn’t do so, therefore she waived her right to an attorney.

She denied any moments to speak to the court except after the ruling.

“I just wanted to tell Mr. James, I am so sorry for everything I put you through,” she said. “I know that doesn’t change anything. I just want you to know that I have to live with this too for the rest of my life. I really, sincerely apologize.”

Teague said she doesn’t own any assets and has no income.

If James wants to pursue further civil action, the judgment would allow him to hire an attorney and have Teagues wages garnished among other avenues for payment.

But for James it isn’t about the money. He limped out of the courtroom smiling.

“I’m just a strong-minded old country boy,” James said. “I have lots of things against me, nothing against her as a person.”

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