Mike Inglis knows he probably will receive little from the $353 million verdict a Jefferson County jury reached this week in the civil case he brought against the driver who struck and killed his wife Gwen last year while the couple were riding bikes on West Alameda Parkway.
But it’s important to send a message about drunken and distracted driving, he said.
Gwen Inglis was fatally hit by Ryan Scott Montoya on a Sunday morning in May 2021 on a wide stretch of road just south of Green Mountain in Lakewood that is frequented by Front Range cyclists.
Montoya was sentenced last summer to eight years in prison for killing her while under the influence of alcohol, methamphetamine, Xanax and marijuana. Inglis, who was 46 at the time of her death, was a beloved member of the Front Range cycling community.
“I hope it sends a message that we need to stop drinking and driving,” Mike Inglis said Thursday. “Uber is a great option instead of going out and taking somebody’s life. This guy was a repeat offender. To the city and county and state, I would hope this says that we need to adopt new laws for repeat offenders. Somebody who is on his fourth DUI should not be given a driver’s license back so they can go kill a valuable member of society like Gwen.”
In the civil trial, the six-member jury on Tuesday awarded Inglis $100 million in non-economic damages, for pain and suffering; $3 million in economic damages, for the loss of Gwen’s income; and $250 million in punitive damages.
“The purpose of this verdict was deterrence,” said one of Inglis’s attorneys, Megan Hottman, in an email. “That is the point of punitive damage awards, to punish the person and deter others from the behavior. We asked the jury to help us save lives by deterring other drivers from getting behind the wheel while impaired. The hope is that whether sentenced to prison, or hit with a massive verdict, or both, people will drive more carefully around cyclists for fear of losing their money and their freedoms.”
Inglis said the message he wants to send goes beyond impaired driving to include distracted driving.
“It’s not some of us do it and some of us don’t, it’s 99% of the people have plugged an address into their phone to get to their next location, or to check traffic,” Inglis said. “We know we all do it. How do we stop everybody from doing it? We have to keep constantly reminding everybody not to be distracted.”
Inglis wants to see more rumble strips on highways to alert drivers if they stray out of their lanes, arguing that his wife would still be alive if the road where she was killed had one.
“There’s no doubt in my mind,” Inglis said. “That would have alerted him from whatever his distraction was. It would have brought his attention back to the road, he would have swerved back into his lane, and he would have missed Gwen.”
Montoya did have insurance, Inglis said, but only the state minimum of $25,000.
“Somebody in the state legislature needs to know $25,000 of insurance is not enough to pay for funeral costs,” Inglis said. “That’s all that insurance company is required to pay.”
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