Jury awards $13.7 million to family of car salesman killed in crash

  • Roger Czapski

    Roger Czapski

  • The wreckage of the 2003 BMW Christopher Maher was driving on Aug. 4, 2004.

    The wreckage of the 2003 BMW Christopher Maher was driving on Aug. 4, 2004.

Published: 4/22/2009 12:01 AM

A jury has awarded $13.7 million to the family of a car salesman killed in 2004 while he was a passenger in a car being test-driven.

The wrongful death lawsuit was filed by the parents of Roger Czapski, 22, of Crystal Lake, who was killed while riding in a BMW being driven in South Barrington by a potential buyer.

Czapski had been a salesman at Motor Werks of Barrington Inc. in Barrington for 18 months before the Aug. 4, 2004 crash.

A Cook County jury ruled Monday that Christopher Maher of Inverness, who was 20 years old on the day he test drove the black 2003 BMW, was 98 percent responsible for Czapski's death, according to court records.

Though Maher's attorneys argued that Czapski was half responsible for his own death by allegedly encouraging Maher to drive at a high rate of speed, the jury ruled that Czapski bore only 2 percent of the responsibility for the crash, Czapski's attorney Timothy J. Cavanagh said.

The jury also found Sarah Ferris of Schaumburg, the other driver in the two-vehicle accident, bore no responsibility for Czapski's death.

According to reports, Maher was driving the BMW east on Algonquin Road in South Barrington at 95 mph when it collided with Ferris' 2002 Saturn as she was turning left into Willow Creek Community Church.

The BMW slammed into a light pole, ejecting Maher from the car. Czapski was in the front passenger seat and two of Maher's friends were in the back seat. Czapski was the only fatality in the crash, and the only occupant of the BMW wearing a seat belt.

The jury determined the total loss to Czapski's family and estate was $14 million, but that Maher was responsible for only 98 percent of that - or $13.72 million.

Maher and his insurance company are ultimately responsible for payment of the amount the court decided, Cavanagh said.

Neither Maher nor his attorney, Thomas A. Jacobson, could be reached for comment Tuesday.