YULEE, Fla. – A Nassau County jury returned a $1 billion verdict in the death of a local University of North Florida student killed in a 22-vehicle crash in 2017 on Interstate 95.
Troopers said Connor Dzion, 18, was stopped in traffic from a semitruck crash on Labor Day weekend near State Road 200 when another truck hit him from behind, killing him.
The attorney for Dzion’s parents said it was the result of distracted driving and illegal trucking practices.
“It’s hell,” Melissa Dzion, Dzion’s mother, told reporters after the verdict. “There’s no other word for it. It’s pure hell.”
The pain from losing a child never goes away. Four years later, Connor Dzion’s parents are devasted.
“Someone at the prime of his life, just ready to fly the nest and make an impact on the world, snuffed out, never got to see it,” said an emotional David Dzion, his father.
Connor Dzion was a Creekside High School scholar and a freshman at UNF on scholarship. He was also an avid golfer.
Family lawyer Curry Pajcic, a civil attorney with Pajcic & Pajcic, blames two trucking companies for Connor Dzion’s death, saying the semi driver for AJD Business Services Inc., from New York state, was distracted by his cellphone, driving over his legal limit of hours and without a commercial driver’s license when he caused the crash that blocked the interstate. Pajcic said the driver was on a New York to Miami route and had been driving for 25 hours, against transportation laws.
As Connor Dzion sat in the traffic backup, Pajcic said, another trucker, with Kahkashan Carrier of Canada, was going 70 mph on cruise control when he slammed into stopped traffic, killing the teen.
“Never hit his brakes until one second before impact,” he said. “He failed to see stopped cars, a parking lot I’ve stopped traffic with blinking lights, flashing lights, emergency vehicles.”
After five days of testimony in the civil trial, on Aug. 20, a jury handed down a verdict of $100 million to Connor Dzion’s parents for pain and suffering and $900 million for punitive damages, citing AJD Business Services hiring a dangerous driver. The jury agreed the company did little to nothing toward safety and background checks before letting their driver behind the wheel. Both companies remain in business but have not paid out the sums ordered.
“There are good trucking companies out there that deliver the things we need. It’s the bad trucking companies that pay under the table,” Pajcic noted.
Connor Dzion’s parents said no amount of money will replace their son and they hope no one else will have to go through this. Now, they’re starting a nonprofit against distracted driving: the Connor Dzion Foundation.
“No parent should ever have to live this, ever,” said a tearful Melissa Dzion.
News4Jax reached out to the two companies involved in the lawsuit for their side of the story. The owner of Kahkashan said he had no comment. A message left for AJD management was not returned.