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Parents Of UM Students Killed By Driver Ask For Millions

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) -- The attorneys for the parents of two University of Miami students killed by a driver is asking for them to be awarded millions.

The plaintiffs' attorneys asked the jury to award approximately $2 million in economic damages to the parents, about a million dollars each, but asked for each set of parents to be awarded five to $7 million for their pain and suffering.

All this as closing arguments were underway Tuesday in the civil trial of the driver Milady Pequeno. Just after 4 p.m. the jury began deliberating in the case.

Pequeno's Porsche slammed into Ying Chen, 27, and Hau Liu, 26, as they crossed Kendall Drive at an intersection just east of Dixie Highway on the evening of October 16, 2014. Police said Pequeno sped off after the incident.

After six days of testimony, attorney Deborah Gander told jurors in closing arguments that "Milady Pequeno was not watching where she was going" when she struck and killed the students."

"They were there to be seen," Gander told the three men and three women on the jury.

Gander reminded jurors that Pequeno, in her own testimony, said she never saw the students.

"She hit them with her car without ever having seen them" Gander said.  "That's the one part of her story that has been consistent."

The attorney ridiculed the defense claim that the students jumped out in front of Pequeno's car.

She reminded jurors that a detective testified that Pequeno admitted being distracted.

"She told him that she was talking to her mother," in the passenger seat of the car, the attorney said.

"She admitted to you 'I don't know why I didn't see them,'" the attorney said.

Jurors also were reminded that Pequeno did not try to help the students, but kept going more than the length of a football field, stopping only after being screamed at by another driver.

"She didn't stop, didn't get out to render aid, she kept going," the attorney said.

In her testimony, Pequeno was unable to explain why she did not stop.

Earlier, a defense expert testified before closing arguments.

A traffic reconstruction expert said Tuesday that the doubly fatal accident was consistent with the defense that the students darted in front of Pequeno's car.

"I think they ran out in front of that Porsche and caused this accident," said Kenneth Bynum, a traffic engineer, testifying for the defense.

Bynum said the accident was in keeping with the defense argument that Pequeno's view was obscured by an SUV.

On cross examination, Gander stressed that the defense expert has only a bachelor's degree, and does the vast majority of his work for the defense camps in civil cases.

As part of Pequeno's civil trial, Chen's parents gave emotional testimony using a translator last week.

Related: Parents Of UM Student Hit & Killed Testify In Driver's Trial

Chen's mother Wang Qingyun wept frequently as she spoke of her loss.

"I don't know sometimes if I am alive or if I'm dead. I would rather die," she said.  

Pequeno, who is being sued for negligence, wept in court during the mother's testimony.

Related: Driver Who Hit, Killed UM Students Takes The Stand

At one point a female juror was visibly moved, dabbing tears from her eyes. 

There was also testimony from the assistant medical examiner who said  both students suffered multiple broken bones, skull fractures and internal injuries.

Related: Jury Hears Civil Case Against Woman Who Hit, Killed UM Students

But the coroner, during cross-examination, said both students would have been rendered unconscious instantly, suggesting they did not consciously suffer.

This is important in the case because, in a civil lawsuit, the jury can weigh suffering in awarding damages, if any. 


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