Barron County Judge Upheld

A state appeals court ruled Tuesday that the awarding of 225-thousand dollars in punitive damages to a couple following an accident caused by a repeat drunken driver was not grossly excessive or unconstitutional.

The ruling by the Third District Court of Appeals came in a case in which Levi Hogner of Cumberland contended the damage award was so excessive it violated his due process rights under the state and U-S constitutions.

The ruling refers to a March state Supreme Court decision upholding a jury's award of punitive damages to the families of three ironworkers killed when a crane collapsed during the construction of Milwaukee's Miller Park.

The ruling upholds Barron County Circuit Judge Frederick Henderson's refusal to grant Hogner a new trial.

The accident nearly seven years ago involved Leroy Strenke of Cumberland, whose back was injured. He and his wife sought damages in the case.

Hogner's attorney, Karen Kingsley, said the decision will open the door to more requests for punitive damages in drunken driving cases where injuries are not especially severe.

Strenke's attorney, Owen Williams, did not immediately return a telephone message.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

APNP-08-02-05 1314CDT