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Man who lost leg wins suit against driver

A man who lost a leg in a motorcycle accident in 1987 was awarded $895,000 Tuesday after a judge found a drunken driver and the driver's mother negligent in the crash. David James Parker, 25, sued Vincent Harmatuk, Harmatuk's parents, Jane and Walter, ABC Liquors, Regency Pub and Kap's Tap. The accident, which happened Sept. 25, 1987, resulted in the amputation below the knee of one of Parker's legs.

Parker's attorney said Parker was happy with the compensation.

"There's never enough money to compensate for losing a leg," said Tampa lawyer Scott Borders. "But this will be enough to make him more comfortable."

Court records showed that Harmatuk, then 29, started drinking about noon at his parents' house in Hudson and was intoxicated when he left to go drinking that night at local taverns.

Harmatuk consumed about 10 beers in a 3{-hour period that night before he left for home, reports said.

By the time of the accident at 9:15 p.m., Harmatuk was too drunk to drive safely, and after he hit Parker's Kawasaki motorcycle from the rear, he left the scene on State Road 52, reports said.

Harmatuk was arrested at midnight, when authorities found his car stuck in sand at Ten Oaks Drive.

On Tuesday, Circuit Judge Lawrence E. Keough found that Harmatuk was negligent for driving drunk. Keough also found that Jane Harmatuk, who owned the car her son was driving, was negligent for letting her son take the car and drive in his condition.

Parker also sued the bars where Harmatuk went to drink, but those cases were previously resolved. Borders, one of Parker's attorneys, said he was not sure what the settlement was in those cases.

Neither Parker nor Harmatuk could be reached for comment Tuesday night.

Harmatuk also had to face criminal charges and was injured in another serious accident in December 1988.

Borders said Parker has worked hard to rehabilitate himself and get on with his life.

"He's only 25, so he's got a long way to go without his leg," Borders said. "But he's got a great attitude. He wants to be a commercial fisherman and he earned his first dollar since the accident about a month ago."