CINCINNATI – The parents of a teenager who stabbed a 13-year-old girl must bear most of the responsibility, jurors decided as they awarded $10 million to the injured victim and her family.
Lance and Diane White share 70 percent of the blame for the 2003 attack on Casey Hilmer, the Hamilton County jury found Friday. Their son Benjamin, who was 17 at the time, bears the rest.
“It sends a message to parents that even if the child is 11 days shy of 18 years old, a parent is liable for the supervision and control of their children and what they entrust them with,” said attorney Stanley Chesley, who represented the Hilmer family.
Benjamin White had grabbed Casey as she was jogging in suburban Indian Hills, dragged her to a wooded area and stabbed her in the face and neck.
Attorneys for the Hilmers argued that the Whites knew their son carried a knife. Ohio law says parents can be held liable if they negligently entrust a weapon to their child.
Benjamin White, now 20, was convicted as an adult of attempted murder and felonious assault last year and is serving a 10-year prison term.
Casey has recovered physically but is still afraid to go anywhere alone, her mother, Meg Hilmer, testified in the two-week trial.
The Hilmers sought $25 million in their lawsuit.
The jury awarded them $6.5 million for medical bills and pain and suffering, with Benjamin White’s parents expected to pay $4.55 million and Benjamin White the rest. They ordered the son alone to pay $3.5 million more as punishment.
There was no immediate word if the Whites would appeal. Diane White declined to comment Saturday. Lance White owns a sanitation company and is president of the Indian Hill Board of Education.
Attorneys for the Hilmers presented evidence that Benjamin White had a history of aggressive attacks on classmates and drug abuse, according to court records.
The jury foreman, William Freudiger, said jurors held the parents responsible because they found no evidence that they had disciplined their sons.
“I’m not saying they’re bad parents, but under the law they have certain responsibilities – and at the time, their son was legally a minor,” Freudiger said.