HANALEI — In the three years since the accident that changed her life, Lisa Wilson has never faced the man she holds responsible for her injuries or had the opportunity to testify against him. That could soon change.
“I was there every time he was in court,” Wilson said in an interview with The Garden Island on Wednesday, “but I never got to say a word.”
Wilson recently hired veteran attorney Teresa Tico to represent her in an ongoing civil suit against Byron Say, 39, of Hanalei.
On June 25, 2005, Wilson was allegedly knocked from the back of a motorcycle by a truck driven by Say and then dragged under the vehicle before he fled the scene.
According to District Court records, a toxicology report revealed that Say was driving under the influence of morphine, methamphetamine and amphetamine at the time of the accident.
Say quickly pled guilty to the petty misdemeanor charge of operating a vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicant while prosecutors prepared to bundle that count with first-degree negligent injury and causing an accident involving serious injury, more serious felony offenses.
The prosecution’s confusion allowed Say to argue that his guilty plea and double jeopardy protections precluded the state from ammending the charges to include the felonies.
“(Fifth Circuit) Judge (Kathleen) Watanabe got a lot of flak in the community, but she was right (to rule in Say’s favor),” said Tico. “It isn’t the court’s responsibility to do the prosecutor’s job.”
Justice was eventually served, to an extent, when Say was sentenced to 25 years in prison on a variety of drug and other charges. While that knowledge is a comfort to Wilson, she knows that her role in the incident had no bearing on the outcome of the case.
Her extensive injuries — two collapsed lungs, 12 fractured ribs, a ruptured spleen, multiple fractures in her hips and pelvis, two broken arms and severe road rash — have never been entered into court records or considered by a jury.
Furthermore, Say has never apologized to Wilson for his actions.
“He’s never even looked me in the face,” she said.
“The community needs Byron Say to take personal responsibility for his behavior,” Tico added.
An apology is just one of the things that Wilson hopes to get from Say when the lawsuit is heard, starting on Sept. 14.
Tico explained that while the total monetary figure her client is seeking in damages won’t be released until the trial, the suit includes claims for, “injury, disability, pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, diminished earning capacity and lost wages.”
“I want everything he’s got,” Wilson said.
Medical bills to this point have cost Wilson $350,000, not including recommended surgeries and future rehabilitation that she cannot currently afford.
Tico has also asked the court to assess punitive damages, designed not to compensate Wilson but to punish Say for his actions. Say’s attorney, O‘ahu-based Robert Mash, will be contesting those and other claims at a pre-trial hearing on June 5, but declined to comment until that time.
Tico acted quickly after replacing Mark Zenger as Wilson’s attorney last fall, reaching an out-of-court settlement with Aquila Say, Byron’s sister-in-law and the renter reponsible for the truck he was driving the day of the accident.