Jury awards $600,000 to family of slain Hoffman Estates man
The wrongful death lawsuit the family of Terrance Michael Hauser pursued against the man who killed their son, brother and father was never about collecting money. It was about securing justice.
Late Friday afternoon, the Hauser family got what they have sought ever since Joseph Biedermann stabbed the 38-year-old, single father to death three years ago this month. They got a guilty verdict, the verdict denied them in 2009 when a Rolling Meadows jury acquitted Biedermann on first-degree murder charges.
Biedermann claimed he stabbed Hauser 61 times in self-defense after he said Hauser threatened to sexually assault and kill him a few hours after they met for the first time at a bar near the apartment complex where both men lived. On Friday, a seven-woman, five-man civil jury found Biedermann responsible for Hauser's death and ordered him to pay $600,000 in compensatory damages to Hauser's teenage son. Biedermann and his family left the courtroom without commenting.
The verdict meant relief for Hauser's family.
"Justice has been served," said Catherine Meyers, Hauser's mother.
It also meant vindication, said Hauser family attorney Michael LaMonica.
"It means the man who took Mike from his son should pay. This is the only way he can pay," said LaMonica, who called Biedermann's self-defense claim "absurd."
After drinking at the bar, Biedermann and Hauser went back to Hauser's apartment where Biedermann said he passed out on the couch and awoke to find Hauser threatening him with a sword and a medieval-style dagger. A struggle ensued during which Biedermann said he wrestled away the dagger and used it to stab Hauser to death.
Yet the room showed no evidence of a struggle, said LaMonica, who produced police photographs which show two undisturbed wine glasses on a coffee table, with the dagger resting on the lower shelf.
LaMonica also insisted the number of wounds, including 20 to Hauser's back delivered with enough force to fracture his spine and shoulder blade, suggested an "execution style" attack, not self-defense.
LaMonica asked the jury to award at least $6 million for the pain and suffering Hauser endured from the first stab wound to the 61st. He also asked for at least $3 million to compensate Hauser's son for the loss of his father's love, affection, guidance and support.
"This wasn't an accident," LaMonica said. "This is as bad as it gets."
"A stabbing is up close and personal," he said. "Sixty-one stabs is definitely not self-defense."
Painting a different picture of what happened that night, defense attorney Kevin Stroud urged the jury to award no damages.
"Joseph Biedermann expected to wake up to a hangover. Instead he wakes up to this," said Stroud, who addressed jurors while holding aloft the weapons Biedermann claimed Hauser tried to use against him. "This defendant had to protect himself. He had a right to protect himself."