BY REBEKAH BROWN (STAFF WRITER) / PUBLISHED: MARCH 15, 2014
For the families of two late Naval Reservists, a jury’s award of more than $7 million Friday represented justice.
The two Luzerne County men were killed following a crash in Kuwait in 2009. Morgan Lee Hanks, an employee of civilian contractor Combat Support Associates at the time, was driving an SUV on the two-laned Kuwaiti road, passing a convoy of military vehicles. His SUV hit another, driven by Brian Patton, in a head-on crash.
Mr. Patton, 37, of Nanticoke, died at the scene. His passenger, colleague and friend, David Morgan of Wilkes-Barre, suffered a traumatic brain injury and succumbed to complications from his injury in August at age 38.
Friday, families of the men heard the result of a suit they filed in 2010. The jury deliberated for about 4½ hours following the eight-day federal civil trial before returning a verdict, finding Mr. Hanks negligent in the crash and Combat Support Associates liable. The unanimous verdict awarded Mr. Patton’s family $3.875 million and Mr. Morgan’s family $3.750 million in damages.
When asked whether he had anything to say leaving the courtroom, Mr. Hanks, 29, declined to comment.
“I do, but under the advice of my attorney, not right now,” he said.
Amy Hynoski Patton turned to hug Mr. Morgan’s parents, seated behind her in the courtroom, after the verdict was read.
She looked forward to sharing the news with her son Nicholas.
“He’ll be thrilled to know his daddy won,” attorney William Anzalone said after the verdict. Mr. Anzalone represented the Patton family.
He pointed out that the families had sat through a criminal trial in Virginia where Mr. Hanks was acquitted of involuntary manslaughter charges.
“In their hearts, they always knew Morgan Lee Hanks was responsible,” he said. “Today in Scranton, the jury said Morgan Lee Hanks was responsible.”
Attorneys for Mr. Hanks and Combat Support Associates declined to comment after the proceedings.
Mr. Morgan’s parents, of Wilkes-Barre, said the award would provide for the families of both men.
“Justice has been served,” Margaret Morgan said. “Dave and Brian can rest in peace.”