Lakeland Personal Injury Lawyers Win $7.25 Million Verdict – Jury Holds Polk County Sheriffs Office in Contempt

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David C. Dismuke and John P. Berke of Burnetti, P.A obtain verdict for plaintiff killed by driver under the influence of methamphetamine. Polk County Sheriffs Office fails to take legal action against intoxicated defendant.

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Lakeland personal injury attorneys David C. Dismuke and John P. Berke of Burnetti, P.A. ( received a $7.25 million jury verdict for compensatory and punitive damages on April 5, 2011. The verdict was in favor of the family of Jay Gillespie of Lakeland, Florida, against the defendant, Brent Hutchinson.

Joyce Wachter, 62 year old mother and Personal Representative of the Estate of Jay Gillespie, her 35 year old son, brought a civil action against Brent Hutchinson (Case No.: 08CA-0092). This matter was decided following a two-day civil jury trial in Polk County Circuit Court, before the Hon. J. Michael McCarthy.

The wrongful death lawsuit arose as a result of a traffic crash that occurred on State Road 33 in Polk City on March 8, 2006. The Plaintiff contended that Brent Hutchison was under the influence of methamphetamine when he crossed the centerline and collided head-on with Jay Gillespie, causing his death.

According to attorney John Berke, despite the allegations and the proof presented at trial, the Polk County Sheriff’s Department, who investigated this case, has failed to take any action against Brent Hutchinson as of this date by way of formal charges or even a traffic citation.

The jury issued an uncharacteristic, yet heartfelt statement with their verdict as follows:

"To the family, we acknowledge that no amount of award of damages will compensate you for your loss. We sympathize with you and grieve with you and for you. We hold the Polk County Sheriffs Office in contempt for not pursuing more earnest criminal charges and hope that they will. We hope this award is actually realized for you and for your family that your life and your grief might be eased because of it."

Attorney David Dismuke stated that the purpose of this trial was to give Joyce Wachter a voice, and to send a message to the community that this conduct cannot be tolerated. He hopes that this trial will serve as a catalyst for the Polk County Sheriffs Office to continue their investigation into this accident, and bring appropriate charges against the defendant.

Personal injury lawyers David C. Dismuke and John P. Berke are available for comment.

About Burnetti, P.A.:

Burnetti, P.A. is a law firm dedicated to the representation of injured citizens across the state of Florida. Eleven lawyers and more than 100 support team members staff offices in Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville and Lakeland, Florida. Established in 1994, the firm’s practice is concentrated in personal injury law, and aggressively represents cases involving auto accidents, wrongful death, product liability, traumatic brain injury, nursing home neglect, medical malpractice, social security disability and workers' compensation. For more information, please call 1-800-BURNETTI, or visit

Subscribe to Burnetti, P.A.’s YouTube channel for the most recent product recall information, latest firm commercials, and resources to help answer injury questions.

About David C. Dismuke:
Lakeland personal injury lawyer David Dismuke is an established attorney whose resume includes numerous jury trials. A civil trial lawyer at Burnetti, P.A., Mr. Dismuke devotes his practice to handling significant personal injury claims resulting from car accidents, workers’ compensation, wrongful death, and medical malpractice.

About John P. Berke:

John Berke is a former Florida Highway Patrol State Trooper and tenacious personal injury attorney who has earned many sizeable awards and verdicts for his clients. Mr. Berke is a member of the American Bar Association, Florida Bar, Fraternal Order of Police, Hillsborough County Bar Association, former Florida Highway Traffic Homicide Investigator and former Florida Highway Patrol Instructor.


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