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$1.2 million verdict for Santa Rosa woman hit by CHP patrol car

Jurors on Thursday awarded $1.2 million to a Santa Rosa woman whose face was disfigured in a crash with a CHP officer speeding to a report of people in baggy clothing gathering outside of the DMV.

Cynthia Dempsey, 46, cried and whispered "Thank you" to her lawyer, Brendan Kunkle, as the verdict was read in a Santa Rosa courtroom after about two days of deliberation.

"I don't know what to say," the tearful woman said as she left the courtroom surrounded by friends and family. "I'm grateful."

In a series of verdicts reached on votes ranging from 10-2 to 12-0, jurors found CHP Officer Blair Hardcastle was negligent in the 2009 crash on Highway 12 near the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in which he drove his patrol car at more than 104 mph after receiving the dispatch call.

It later was determined the gathering was of middle school children practicing for a dance event — a fact not revealed in five days of trial testimony.

Jurors also found negligence on the part of co-defendant Justin Oliver, 37, of Santa Rosa, who was riding a motorcycle in front of Hardcastle and did not yield to his siren or lights.

However, the jury said Oliver was liable for just one-half of a percent of the total damages — or $6,000 — and the CHP responsible for the rest.

Juror Kay Delaney of Windsor said she wanted to give Dempsey more money to compensate her for the scarring.

"She's got a long life ahead of her," Delaney said outside court. "To look at that every day? I wouldn't want that."

At least one juror disagreed.


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