On Tuesday, a Fayette County jury awarded $150 billion to the family of Robbie Middleton. The verdict was rendered against Don Wilburn Collins, who doused Robbie Middleton with gasoline and set him on fire on Middleton’s eighth birthday. This incident happened as young Robbie Middleton walked through a wooded area in Splendora, Texas. Middleton somehow survived the incident, but remained horribly scarred and disfigured from his injuries. He passed away when he was twenty years old from a rare form of skin cancer – which his attorneys attributed to his substantial and extensive burn injuries.
Lawyers for Middleton have stated that they hope this verdict will persuade prosecutors to reopen the criminal case and seek charges against Collins. Collins never faced criminal prosecution for burning eight-year-old Middleton. According to MSNBC.com, Collins is currently in prison for an unrelated sexual assault conviction against another eight-year-old boy and for failing to register as a sex offender. He is currently set to be released back into the general population next year.
While the family of Robbie Middleton understands that they will likely not see any recovery from the massive verdict, the family has publically stated that this verdict does provide comfort. “What we thought was please let these people realize Robert [Middleton] was precious, like everybody else’s child, and he didn’t deserve this.” The jury’s verdict clearly communicated that Middleton did not deserve this – and it sends a message. Prior to this verdict, the Florida tobacco verdict of $145 billion was the largest U.S. civil jury verdict – according to John Nockleby, professor and director of the civil justice program at the Loyola Marymount University School of Law.
According to Montgomery County Attorney David Walker on Wednesday, the sheriff’s department’s cold case unit has already been reviewing the Middleton burning for several months.