$50 million verdict awarded in 2008 fatal wreck case

Cynthia and Frank Bales on a Caribbean cruise with their son in the winter of 2007, the year before Bales was killed on his motorcycle.

Cindy Bales believes justice has prevailed after she was awarded a $50 million verdict in a recent lawsuit against the man she believes is responsible for her husband’s death.

Bales said she received what she and her family had been waiting for since 2008 — closure.

On Oct. 15, 2008, Bales’ husband, 50-year-old Randy, was headed west on his motorcycle on Aviation Avenue when Abel Martinez-Martinez, 33, of North Charleston, turned left on a red light from Fain Street, according to an incident report.

The motorcycle hit the truck Martinez-Martinez was driving on the driver’s side, killing Bales.

Martinez-Martinez was cited for disregarding a traffic control device. Court records show he was tried in his absence, which typically results in a fine or jail time.

Martinez-Martinez also was cited for having no South Carolina drivers license. Court records show that charge was dismissed.

“Randy’s life was worth more than the amount he paid in bail to get out of jail, which was a few hundred dollars,” Cindy Bales said.

Bales’ wife filed a civil suit against Martinez-Martinez, and when he didn’t respond to it, a judge issued a verdict for $1.9 million in 2012, according to her attorneys.

Martinez-Martinez later did respond to the suit, and a judge allowed the case to go to trial, voiding the previous verdict, according to Bales’ attorneys.

After a four day trial in Charleston County last week, a verdict was returned in favor of Bales in the amount of $20 million in actual damages and $30 million in punitive damages.

The attorney representing Martinez-Martinez declined to comment.

Roy Willey, Eric Poulin and Akim Anastopoulo represented the Bales family.

Willey said the suit was not about money for the family, but about closure.

“And this is about Mrs. Bales being able to tell her son that his father’s life meant something,” Willey said.

“It was important for the Bales’ (that) the community agreed the wreck was the fault of Martinez-Martinez,” said Poulin.

The South Carolina Department of Transportation, which was originally named as a defendant in the suit, was dropped from the complaint by the time the case went to trial, according to Poulin and Willey.

Reach Natalie Caula Hauff at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/ncaula.