‘Record verdict’ reached in ‘Katie Bug’ civil trial

Published: Mar. 13, 2023 at 11:04 AM CDT
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BENTON, La. (KSLA) - A record-breaking verdict was reached Friday, March 10 in the civil trial for a young girl who was killed in a car wreck back in November of 2017.

On Friday, the jury awarded a record-breaking amount of money to the family of Katie Grantham, 4. The young girl died about a week after the crash; the driver who hit the family’s car, Shane DeMoss, was not drug tested on-scene because Katie did not die on-scene.

Katie’s death helped spur change in state law regarding drug testing on the scene of car crashes. Rep. Ryan Gatti authored the bill, referred to as “Katie’s Law.” Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the bill into law in 2019.

The jury found that DeMoss was 10% at fault, while his employer, Stuart Petroleum Testers, Inc., was 90% at fault.

As a result of the civil trial, Katie’s parents were awarded $200 million each. An additional $5 million was awarded for injuries the mother sustained in the wreck. Another $4,122,013 was awarded in punitive damages for Katie’s birthday: April 12, 2013.

Katie’s mother issued the following statement before the verdict was reached Friday night:

“I’m issuing a statement at the conclusion of the trial but before the jury returns. This is intentional because what I’d like to say is not based upon what the jury decides. After Katie’s death, this community rallied around us on our behalf. Our community in North Louisiana and beyond, whether they knew us personally or not, helped our family pass Katie Bug’s Law which expanded drug testing at accident scenes. They rallied because they heard what happened to us and were angry with us. What we knew in private became public knowledge.

“That is why my family and I have pushed forward with this civil lawsuit for over 5 years now...so that what I knew in private could be talked about in public. I’ve waited longer for this day in court than I had with Katie.

“This lawsuit is the result of another systemic issue identified after Katie died. Who is more responsible to keep us safe on the roads: a man with a known history of drug abuse and poor decisions or the people who hire him? The company he worked for and those he continues to work for have all failed to do their due diligence in making sure he is a safe driver and we are safe traveling the roads with him. It’s a pattern across multiple oil companies to ignore the damage their addicted and unchecked employees can do. There were no consequences in the months leading up to our wreck when this driver displayed his reckless, careless, and dangerous decisions. The company simply didn’t care because it didn’t affect their wallet and that’s ultimately what they protect.

“Our hope in this trial was to bring to light what usually stays in the dark. I pray we have done that. Katie’s death was a collective loss for all of us and my prayer is that this verdict may be a collective gain in helping keep us all safer.

“Katie didn’t have to die, but she did at the hands of a driver and his employer who empowered him. And in her death, God has reminded me over and over and over again that He is good, He is sufficient, He has a purpose.

“Praise be to God, the comforter of my broken heart.

“Morgan Grantham, Katie Bug’s Mom”