ANNAPOLIS, FEB. 19 -- A pedestrian who lost his leg after being hit by a drunk driver has been awarded $17.5 million by an Anne Arundel County jury that deliberated only 32 minutes.

Thursday's award "sent a clear message to drunk drivers," said the plaintiff's attorney, Leonard A. Orman.

William F. Ashburn, 37, of Brooklyn Park, Md., was hit by a drunk driver in 1983 as he walked on the sidewalk of Ritchie Highway four blocks from his home. He testified that the force of the collision threw him 148 feet. He fell to the ground after slamming into a stop sign.

Ashburn's left leg and part of his hip were amputated three days after the 2:30 a.m. accident. He cannot be fitted with an artificial leg because of the injuries to his hip, he told the jury.

The defendant, John J. Millham of Elkridge, later was convicted of driving while intoxicated. A judge fined him $500 and gave him a suspended jail sentence.

Neither Millham, 28, nor his attorney attended the trial. Millham could not be reached for comment.

Circuit Court Judge Raymond G. Thieme said the defendant and his attorney were informed of the trial date.