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Verdict reached in Alabama woman's lawsuit after tragic Big Sky honeymoon

Catharine and Lewis
Posted at 7:58 PM, Apr 11, 2024

BOZEMAN — Catharine Hudgens is finally seeing justice after her Big Sky honeymoon turned deadly back in 2021. Her trial has been occurring over the last two weeks and a decision was finally reached on Wednesday.

“She hung in there for another 24 hours, maybe even longer after he had died,” Justin Stalpes told me. He is one of the lawyers representing Hudgens, along with Cunningham Bounds from Alabama.

“She was in the room with him while he was deceased and she didn't know who she was, where she was, or who he was,” says Stalpes.

It's been three years since Catharine and her husband Lew Hudgens traveled from their home in Mobile, Alabama to honeymoon at the Rainbow Ranch Lodge in Big Sky. According to court documents, family members called the lodge after not hearing from Catharine and Lew and asked staff to check on the newlyweds.

Two days after the family called, the Rainbow Ranch Lodge general manager finally knocked on the Hudgens' door. When no one answered, he reportedly entered the room and found Lew dead on the bed and Catharine disoriented.

Catharine sued and recently testified in a Gallatin County courtroom during the trial.

“Quite an emotional thing, I think, to come back to Montana from Mobile, having not been here since she had been poisoned by the carbon monoxide,” Stalpes told me.

He also says Catharine still suffers from carbon monoxide poisoning and likely will for the rest of her life. She has two holes in her brain as a result of the incident.

“Talking to Catharine, her biggest complaint, she just wishes she was the same. And she's not. She lost her husband, she went through one of the most horrific situations you could imagine, and she’s not the same anymore. They took that away from her,” says Stalpes.

And after a nearly two-week trial, a verdict was reached.

“The jury awarded damages to Catharine and Lew’s heirs in the amount of $15 million,” Stalpes says.

According to Stalpes, 65% of damages are to be paid by Rainbow Ranch. The other 35%, through confidential settlements by companies who took responsibility earlier on.

“She's a remarkable woman who—she couldn't go back to her job, but she went back to a different job working part-time at a boutique. She’s had to raise her daughters. She's a pretty admirable woman, to be honest,” says Staples.