More than three years after his wife was killed in a drunken driving crash, a Clark County jury awarded James LaPelusa and his two sons $10 million in damages.
The jury made its decision Friday. LaPelusa’s wife, Shanna LaPelusa, was 28 when she died Nov. 6, 2010, after being thrown from a car in Henderson. Her friend, Summer Mackie, was arrested later that night on a count of DUI resulting in death. She later served prison time in the case.
“The jury was validating Shanna,” lawyer Robert Cottle said of the verdict. He represented James LaPelusa.
The $10 million, to be paid by Mackie and her family or her insurance company, will be split into three equal parts, one for James LaPelusa and each of his sons, whom he now raises alone. About $370,000 was awarded for past suffering, and $9.6 million is for the future.
Shanna LaPelusa had celebrated a friend’s birthday the night she died. She and a group of friends had dinner and split a few bottles of wine at the now-closed Half Shell seafood restaurant and bar in Henderson.
But not everyone made it home. Shanna LaPelusa and two friends traveled about five miles in a car before it crashed down an embankment near Galleria Drive and McCormick Road.
Shanna LaPelusa was thrown from the car, police said. Witnesses tried to help, but she died at the scene from what the Clark County coroner’s office said was blunt force trauma to the chest.
Mackie had a blood-alcohol level more than twice the legal limit at .20 percent, court records show. She and the other passenger, Jamie Wong, both were injured and taken to St. Rose Siena Hospital, where staff members heard Mackie say, “I should not have drove,” Henderson police said.
Police interviewed Mackie and said she had four glasses of wine and a salad before trying to drive her friends home that night. Wong told police the group drank two bottles of wine altogether. Both said they couldn’t remember who was driving when the accident happened.
There was speculation throughout court proceedings about whether or not LaPelusa was wearing a seat belt when the accident happened.
In the same verdict awarding the LaPelusas $10 million, the jury decided that Shanna LaPelusa was 25 percent responsible in her own death. The remaining 75 percent went to driver Mackie, who pleaded guilty in April 2011 and was sentenced to serve at least two years in prison. She has since been released.
Contact reporter Annalise Porter at email@example.com or 702-383-0264.