Lessons from the Lapointe Trial Verdict

Many Mainers followed the recent trial of Medway, MA and Bridgton, ME resident Robert Lapointe, who was charged with manslaughter, reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon and aggravated OUI following a collision on Long Lake in which killed Terry Raye Trott of Harrison and Suzanne Groetzinger of Berwick. The jury was deadlocked on the first two charges and found Lapointe guilty of the third. 

Regardless of your opinion on the case (and everyone in Maine seems to have a strong one!), there are some items worth noting:

  • The criminal trial was only part of Mr. Lapointe’s worries. There will surely be a civil trial now that the criminal trial is over. Yes, he was convicted of two counts of Aggravated OUI, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison. And, the State hasn’t decided whether to re-try him on the two deadlocked charges. 
  •  A civil trial, which would likely charge wrongful death, would be protracted and expensive – regardless of the outcome. Probably the most famous civil trial following a criminal acquittal was The O.J. Simpson case. As everyone knows, Simpson was acquitted of murder in the criminal trial, only to be found guilty of civil charges, which cost $8.5 million in compensatory damages and $33.5 million in punitive damages
  • Maine homeowners insurance and Boat Insurance policies offer liability protection, including defense costs. This would apply only to civil – not criminal – charges. The maximum limits available are generally $500,000. Too many people fail to even carry this amount.
  • Personal Umbrella Insurance policies provide excess liability protection in increments of $1 million. Best of all, legal defense costs are usually NOT taken out of that limit: most policies provide a full $1 million of protection against damages.

 You probably have a tough time identifying with O.J. Simpson or Robert Lapointe. Their cases are extreme. But bad things can happen to ordinary people, too. And your assets can be wiped out by defense costs and liability judgements following an accident. 

  1. Review your homeowners policy. 
  2. Compare your liability coverage to your net worth.
  3. Consider buying an umbrella policy.  
  4. Talk to your insurance agent.