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Verdict reached for driver accused of killing University of Miami students

Hao Liu, Ying Chen killed while crossing street

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MIAMI – A jury has awarded a verdict of more than $8 million to the families of two international students who were killed in a crash while attending classes at the University of Miami in 2013.

The jury awarded an $8.563 million verdict Wednesday to the families of Chen Ying and Liu Hao. Deborah Gander and Patrick Montoya, of Colson Hicks Eidson, represented the families.

"This was a case about personal responsibility, accountability and the dangers of distracted driving," Gander said. "We are pleased that the families were appropriately compensated for the unfathomably tragic loss of their children. We also hope that this verdict will serve as a reminder to all drivers that they must be vigilant, and pay attention when they drive and be mindful of pedestrians crossing the road."

Ying and Hao were struck as they were crossing an intersection at Southwest 88th Street and Southwest 68th Court. According to the complaint, Ying died at the scene and Hao died while being taken to Kendall Regional Medical Center.

After striking Ying and Hao, Milady Pequeno continued on until she was stopped by another motorist, the complaint said.

"This verdict demonstrates the greatness of our civil justice system that families from a land and culture as far away as China can find justice in our courts," Montoya said.

Pequeno said she was talking on the phone at the time, but was not texting while driving. She claimed a van at the same Pinecrest intersection blocked her view.

Pequeno, who was not drinking, was cited on suspicion of careless driving and failure to use due care. Pequeno had her driver's license suspended for two years, received 120 hours of community service, was ordered to attend high-risk traffic school and to pay a $1,000 fine.

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