Family of man stabbed to death finds justice in civil suit

Updated 11/5/2010 5:30 PM

The family of Terrance Michael Hauser say they got some measure of justice Friday as a wrongful-death suit against the man who stabbed him to death neared its conclusion.

And they got it without having to face Joseph Biedermann, who claimed he stabbed the 38-year-old 61 times in self-defense after Hauser attacked him in March 2008, at Hauser's home in the Hoffman Estates apartment complex where they both lived.

Biedermann's failure to appear at a hearing before Cook County Circuit Court Judge Susan Ruscitti Grussel mattered little to Hauser's mother, Catherine Meyers, whose son was known to family and friends as Mike.

"Today brings justice... That's the most important thing," said Meyers. "This gives Mike vindication."

It's the only vindication available to the Hauser family after a Rolling Meadows jury acquitted Biedermann of first-degree murder in July 2009, after five hours of deliberation. The verdict resulted from the defense's bold, all-or-nothing approach that denied the jury the option of finding Biedermann guilty of second-degree murder, an option some court observers believe they might have exercised had it been available.

Biedermann's failure to appear at this and at other hearings and his failure to mount a defense resulted in a default finding against him, said Hauser family attorney Michael J. LaMonica, meaning the issue of liability has effectively been decided in the Hauser family's favor.

Biedermann testified during his criminal trial that the two men met for the first time at a neighborhood bar several hours before the murder. After spending several hours drinking, they went to Hauser's home in the Barrington Lakes Apartment Complex where Biedermann also lived. Biedermann admitted to being intoxicated. Toxicology reports indicated Hauser had a blood-alcohol content of .277 while Biedermann's BAC measured .226. He claimed he stabbed Hauser 61 times with a medieval-style dagger after Hauser tried to assault him.

Doctors testified that Biedermann suffered only minor injuries while Hauser suffered significant wounds to his jugular vein, lungs, kidney, abdomen and pancreas, any one of which could have been the fatal blow.

Prosecutors scoffed at Biedermann's claims, calling Hauser's death "nothing less than a cold, brutal, senseless killing."

Only one witness testified Friday. Hauser's 14-year-old son described his relationship with his father: the times they spent riding in his dad's tow truck; the times they visited Lisle's Morton Arboretum and a Wisconsin renaissance faire; backyard camp outs and Boy Scout outings, their good-natured "Guitar Hero" rivalry and the inside jokes they shared.

LaMonica asked the high school freshman what he misses most now that his father is gone.

"I'm missing the best friend that I had," the teen said.

Grussel continued the hearing to Nov. 15 when she will hear testimony related to the amount of damages. The amount will be based on compensable damages related to the educational and financial support of Hauser's son, damages awarded for the suffering Hauser endured during the attack and damages awarded to the family for their emotional loss, LaMonica said. The initial suit asked for at least $50,000, but they could be awarded less or more and then they would have to take the next step of trying to get the money from Biedermann through additional legal means.

LaMonica insisted that the lawsuit has never been about money, but about justice they felt they did not receive at the criminal trial.

"Justice has finally been served," Meyers said.