Monday, May 21, 2018
News Roundup

Appeals court upholds ruling that Spring Hill man must pay millions to family in crash

The Second District Court of Appeal upheld a civil judgment that a Spring Hill man was at fault in a 2007 crash that killed three people and injured a fourth and must pay the survivors millions in damages.

David Belniak, 39, is serving a 12-year prison sentence for the crash after a jury found him guilty of three counts of DUI manslaughter in 2011. He was later sued in civil court and ordered to pay around $15 million.

The crash happened about 2:20 p.m. Dec. 25, 2007. A family group was headed to a Christmas gathering in Brooksville. They had presents and a holiday ham in the car.

Authorities said Belniak had alcohol, Xanax and evidence of cocaine in his system. He was driving between 75 and 85 mph when his pickup smashed into the back of Ray McWilliams' Chevrolet Tahoe at U.S. 19 and Little Road.

His wife, Linda McWilliams, 66, was put on life support and died a week later; her daughter, Denise Bassi, 50, died in surgery that day, and Denise's husband, Gerard Bassi, 51, died at the scene.

Family members said Ray McWilliams never fully recovered and he died in 2011 at age 68. The Bassis lived in Connecticut and were visiting Florida for the holidays.

According to the court's website, a PCA — per curiam affirmed — was filed on June 28, finding that a written analysis was unnecessary.

Maureen Deskins, one of the lawyers for the families, said Belniak foresaw a civil suit and sold his assets to his parents within three weeks of the crash. She said Belniak made about $100,000 annually from his job with his parents' Hernando construction company and from collecting rent at his two apartment buildings. He was represented in the civil trial by his sister Debra Tuomey.

Deskins has a pending case in Hernando County against Belniak and his parents to recover the properties.

Belniak also has a pending lawsuit against the Florida Highway Patrol, alleging their investigation of the crash was flawed.

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