LA GRANGE, Texas – In what was a largely symbolic gesture, a jury in La Grange has awarded the family of Robbie Middleton more than $150 billion in damages. It’s the largest jury verdict in a personal injury case in U.S. history.
Middleton's parents sued Donald Collins, claiming he doused Robbie in gasoline, set him on fire and burned him over 99 percent of his body back in 1998 when he had just turned 8 years old. Robbie died earlier this year from a rare form of skin cancer stemming from his burns.
Collins has never been criminally prosecuted in the case.
It’s unlikely the Middletons will ever see a dime because Collins is serving time in prison for failing to register as a sex offender in an unrelated case. The family says it hopes the civil judgement will serve as an incentive for prosecutors in Montgomery county to pursue the case criminally.
In a death-bed video deposition that the Middletons brought with them to court, Robbie Middleton described the gasoline attack and claimed that his former neighbor, Donald Collins – who was 13 at the time, sexually assaulted him just a few weeks before Middleton was set aflame.
"Thirteen years of living hell. The little boy was burned beyond recognition over 99 percent of his body. Very few people in the history of the world have survived those kinds of burns," the Middletons’ attorney, Craig Sico, said.
Collins was named as a suspect in the Middleton case, but the statute of limitations ran out before he was charged. He did, however, serve time for the aggravated sexual assault of another 8-year-old child.
So on Monday, the Middletons took their case to a civil court in La Grange, seeking justice.
Collins was not present at the civil trial and he has denied attacking or assaulting Robbie Middleton.
"If they had prosecuted him for what he did to Robert, everything he did afterwards wouldn’t have happened," Robbie’s mother, Colleen Middleton, said.
"It’s just hard to be reliving it all over again. It’s just real hard for us," Robbie’s father, Bobby Ray Middleton, said.