$50 Million Awarded

December 05, 1990

WESTMINSTER - A Carroll jury last week awarded $50 million to the parents of a 14-year-old boy killed by a drunken driver, in the largest cash settlement in county history.

The Circuit Court jury on Friday handed down the civil judgment against the driver, who caused a head-on collision in November 1987 that killed John C. Golden III of Hampstead.

The driver, Ralph Bennett Walter Jr., 47, who lived in Taneytown at the time of the crash, drove his car across the center line on Route 27 north of Old Manchester Road and into a northbound car driven by Gary Maynard Caudill.

Caudill, who was a neighbor of Golden, died at the scene, of internal injuries. Golden was conscious after the crash, but died while a witness held his hand.

Walter, who had a .22 percent blood alcohol level 90 minutes after the accident, was convicted of automobile manslaughter and driving while intoxicated. He served 15 months in prison.

The lawyer for the boy's parents, John and Celesta Golden, said they filed the civil suit against Walter not for the money, but because they wanted a jury to affirm that a valuable life was lost.

The lawyer, William O. Finch Jr., said collecting the money would be difficult in any case because Walter had no insurance and owns no assets.

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