The jury found the dead boy's uncle, John Watson, 85 percent responsible for his nephew's death in the Holland Hospital parking structure.
The Ottawa County Circuit Court jury came to a verdict after deliberating for about three hours Thursday afternoon in the wrongful death civil case.
The seven-member jury awarded the estate of the boy, Izaiah Casillas, $250,000 — far less than the $25 million to $50 million being pushed by the plaintiff’s attorney, Geoffrey Fieger.
“We found both DeNooyer and Watson negligent toward the responsibility of Izaiah," said 20-year-old Lisa Johnson of Nunica, a member of the jury panel.
Johnson said the burden of responsibility was placed on Watson due in part to his testimony that the boy would still be here today if he had held onto his hand.
“We continue to hold the family of Izaiah in our hearts and prayers," DeNooyer said after the verdict. "And we do want to thank the jury for their service.”
Johnson, a Grand Valley State University student, said it was a very hard decision.
“We all worked great as a team, that’s for sure,” she said of the jury. “I was satisfied with the verdict. I believe it was fair.”
The trial began May 22 in the Grand Haven courtroom. The jury was asked to decide whether or not the boy's death was due to the negligence of DeNooyer.
The child died shortly after being struck by DeNooyer’s sport utility vehicle in the parking structure at Holland Hospital on July 6, 2010.
The Ottawa County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office declined to press any criminal charges against DeNooyer following investigation of the incident. A lawsuit was then filed on behalf of Casilla’s estate — through his mother, Terra Potter — on Jan. 21, 2011.
During the civil trial, Fieger sought to convince the jury that DeNooyer was not using proper caution when driving through the parking structure.
During closing arguments on Thursday, Fieger said DeNooyer was negligent because she was wearing dark sunglasses in an already dark parking facility, that she had her radio and air conditioner “blasting,” that she had her visor down, and that she was experiencing back pain — the reason for her trip to the hospital in the first place. Fieger said all of these issues contributed to her not paying close enough attention and limited her vision.
Read more of this story in Friday's print or e-edition of the Grand Haven Tribune.