BRISTOL, Tenn. — A Sullivan County jury handed down a $16 million wrongful death verdict Monday in Bristol.
The case involved the death of 3-month-old Bryanna Draper in June 2000.
The child’s father, Daniel L. Draper, pleaded guilty in 2003 to first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse. He was sentenced to life in prison plus 25 years.
Bryanna’s mother, Angela Sells, brought the civil suit against her ex-husband, Draper.
Sells said she knew she would not collect any money if she won the suit, but she doesn’t want what happened to her daughter to be forgotten.
“I would just like the public to know that we don’t want Bryanna forgotten or what happened to her forgotten,” Sells said. “If anything that happened yesterday would help to prevent the death of another child, then it was time well-spent. I knew there was no money in the settlement against him, but I wanted it on the record in the hopes that other people would see that a Sullivan County jury is not going to tolerate his behavior. Yesterday was all about Bryanna and hopes to prevent something like that happening to any other child again.”
The award included $6 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages.
Sells’ attorneys in the wrongful death suit, Kenneth D. Hale of Hale, Lyle and Russell and Jonathan Roberts of Wohlford and Roberts, said they were pleased with the verdict.
“The civil trial brings closure for Angie Sells in this matter. She has endured the emotional stress of the criminal and civil cases since the death of her daughter in 2000. The verdict speaks loudly for little Bryanna,” Roberts said.
Hale said “the punitive damages award sent a clear message to the community that such conduct will not be tolerated.”
Articles published in the Times-News at the time of Draper’s arrest quote investigators who said an autopsy of the child revealed numerous injuries in various stages of healing. Police said the injuries were consistent with non-accidental traumas and consisted of broken bones and head injuries.
According to a press release from Hale, Lyle and Russell, retired Bristol Tennessee Police Department Detective Jack Necessary said “that was the worst case of child abuse I worked in my entire career.”