A Spokane advertising executive acquitted on three counts of involuntary manslaughter for a boating crash two years ago that killed three people must pay $500,000 to the families of the victims.
After two weeks of testimony in a civil case, a Coeur d’Alene jury took almost three days to reach the verdict faulting Dennis Magner with 30 percent of the responsibility in the boat crash that killed Caitlin Breeze, 21, of Spokane, Justin Honken, 21, Post Falls, and Justin Luhr, 34, of Medical Lake.
The jury agreed that Luhr, who owned the boat the victims were on when Magner’s ski boat struck it south of Stevens Point, was 70 percent responsible because he allowed his boat to drift in a traffic lane without navigation lights.
The jury awarded Jessica Breeze, Caitlin Breeze’s mother, a $300,000 settlement. Honken’s parents, Doug and Terri, were each awarded $150,000.
Attorneys had asked for for an award of $1 million for the plaintiffs.
A jury in July acquitted Magner of manslaughter in the criminal case. He was accused of being drunk and operating his boat negligently in the dark while heading south in a narrow part of the lake as he returned to his lake home at Driftwood Point with three passengers.
Magner’s boat went airborne after striking Luhr’s boat, which attorneys said was drifting unlighted in the boating lane.
Magner’s boat ripped the top off the victims’ boat, according to court documents. The three victims were located days later at the bottom of the lake.
Magner suffered head injuries in the crash and said he had no recollection of the collision. Two of his passengers suffered minor injuries from being thrown from the boat.
After reading the jury’s verdict at Monday’s hearing, First District Judge John Mitchell commended jurors for sticking with the civil case for the two-week trial and patiently deliberating — beginning Thursday, Oct. 25 — before reaching a verdict on Monday, Oct. 29.
“I’ve been on the bench 17 years and this is the longest deliberation I’ve seen,” Mitchell said. “This was a complicated case. I appreciate your patience.”
Tim Gresback, one of the attorneys representing the Breeze estate, said the case was not about winning a financial settlement, but rather reaching a conclusion for family members of the victims and to hold Magner accountable.
“Today the jury found that (Magner) was indeed responsible,” Gresback said.
He commended the marine deputies for piecing the case together after coming upon a death scene in the dark with pieces of boats floating in the lake chop.
“This is a vindication of the work the deputies did,” he said.