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$61M Verdict Against Two Drivers Responsible for the Death of Torrance Baseball Player, Jesse Esphorst, Jr.

— January 5, 2024

16-year-old Jesse Esphorst, Jr. was killed in a horrific three-vehicle crash in 2017; Jessie and his father were hit by Darryl Hicks and Tung Ming who were in a high-speed car chase.

LOS ANGELES – Attorney Robert Clayton of California plaintiff trial law firm Taylor & Ring and Lawrence Marks of Mardirossian Akaragian LLP obtained a $61M verdict against Darryl Hicks and Tung Ming on behalf of Julie and Jesse Esphorst, the parents of 16-year-old Jesse Esphorst Jr., who was killed in a horrific three-vehicle crash in 2017.

“Jesse was loved by everyone who knew him and not a day goes by that his family, or his community don’t grieve this tragic loss,” said lead counsel Robert Clayton. “Today’s verdict gives his family some support they need to continue to navigate their lives while dealing with this unimaginable tragedy.”

Hicks was driving his Audi in Torrance when he swiped Ming’s car and fled the scene. Ming called 911 and was allegedly encouraged by the operator to drive after the vehicle to obtain the license plate number. As a result, a high-speed and reckless car chase ensued, causing Hicks to crash into the Esphorsts’ minivan as they were making a left-hand turn, killing 16-year-old Jesse Jr.

The jury awarded Julie Esphorst $23,250,000 in wrongful death damages and awarded Jesse Sr. $16,000,000 for his injuries and $20,500,000 for wrongful death damages. The jury also awarded $2,000,000 in punitive damages against Tung Ming and $18,000 in punitive damage against Darryl Leander Hicks. The total damage award to the Esphorsts was $61,768,000. The jury found Ming to be 95% at fault and Hicks 5%.

Read the original complaint here.

Case Background

On March 7, 2017, twenty-one-year-old Ting Ming saw a silver Audi make an illegal U-turn in front of him at the intersection of Silver Spur Rd and Crenshaw Boulevard in Rolling Hills Estates. Ming got “pissed off” and attempted to accelerate around the Audi. As he did, there was minor contact between the two vehicles. The driver of the Audi, defendant Darryl Leander Hicks, sped away and Ming gave chase.

Traffic light
traffic light; image courtesy of Didgeman via Pixabay,

The two vehicles traveled north down Crenshaw Boulevard at speeds that reached 120 mph. At the intersection of Crenshaw Boulevard and Crest Road in Torrance, both vehicles ran a red light and collided with a minivan being driven by Jesse Esphorst Sr. His 16-year-old son Jesse Esphorst Jr. was the front seat passenger in that minivan. Jesse Jr. was killed, and Jesse Sr. sustained serious injuries.

Julie Esphorst filed suit against Ming and Hicks for the wrongful death of her son. Jesse Esphorst Sr also filed suit against Ming and Hicks for the death of his son, as well as his own injuries. Hicks and Ming were convicted in January 2020 of vehicular manslaughter and reckless driving causing injury or death.

Taylor & Ring, an award-winning California-based trial law firm, represents plaintiffs across California in high-impact civil rights, personal injury, wrongful death, sexual assault, abuse and harassment matters.

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