Jury awards $96M in crash that killed baseball star and dad

DETROIT (AP) — A jury awarded nearly $100 million to the family of a New Jersey man and his son who were killed in a Detroit-area crash while traveling to a funeral in 2018, an attorney said Friday.

Zach Attianese, 20, was a star pitcher in high school in Matawan, New Jersey, and was transferring to Florida State University, a baseball powerhouse, after attending two other colleges. His skills had caught the attention of Major League Baseball teams.

Attianese and his father, Jude, were killed in a crash involving a semitractor-trailer in a construction zone on Interstate 75.

There was evidence that the truck driver was careless, family attorney Brian McKeen told The Associated Press, adding that the man had Parkinson’s disease and other health challenges, which should have restricted his driving.

Challenger Motor Freight had acknowledged responsibility, leaving it to a Wayne County jury to come up with a financial award Wednesday, which was $96 million, McKeen said.

“Baseball was such an integral part of the family's life,” he said. “The family was looking forward to continuing to observe and enjoy his baseball career.”

In a statement, Challenger Motor Freight, which is based in Ontario, Canada, noted the “seriousness of the tragic accident” and offered condolences. But an appeal is planned.

“We believe the verdict to be highly excessive for a number of reasons, and any appeal will detail those,” attorney Brian Del Gatto said.

Zach Attianese graduated from Old Bridge High School. After the fatal crash, his baseball coach there said his No. 49 jersey would never be worn again.

Florida State coach Mike Martin, who retired in 2019, described Attianase as a “wonderful young man” with a “bright future that was sadly stripped away.”


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