Father Files Wrongful Death Suit for Daughter

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Marc Gauthier of Salem, Massachusetts, has filed a wrongful death suit against his daughter's boyfriend and the boy's mother. Christopher Maxson was driving his mother's SUV while intoxicated and lost control of the vehicle while speeding. After driving past a stop sign, he collided with parked cars and rolled the SUV, which ejected Julia Gauthier through the sunroof, killing her instantly.

The lawsuit accuses both Maxson and his mother, Margaret, of negligence leading to Julia's death. Christopher is named because of his reckless driving and intoxication, while Margaret was included for negligently entrusting the vehicle to her son. It is unclear if the lawsuit was filed to include Maxson’s mother because Gauthier believes she knew her son was drunk and let him drive anyway, or filed simply under the umbrella of general responsibility.

The wrongful death case is being filed concurrently with the criminal trial that Christopher faces for the drunk driving charges. Gauthier had the suit filed immediately following his daughter's funeral in the hopes of preserving critical evidence that may be present in the SUV itself due to the fact that as more time passes following any incident, the less likely evidence is to be properly preserved.

For his part, Christopher has pled not guilty to the charges against him in the criminal case. These charges include motor vehicle homicide while driving drunk and recklessly, drunken driving, driving to endanger, and failing to stop.

The next hearing on the matter is scheduled for Thursday, April 8. Gauthier's attorney, Eric Finamore, will be present to explain the rationale behind the effort to preserve evidence from the SUV. The Maxson's lawyer will have the opportunity to oppose the measure, though it isn't likely he will do so. As of this time, it is unknown if the Maxsons were made aware that the civil suit had been filed.

Teen Struck and Killed By School Bus

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Ohio resident Sodany 'April' Phann was struck and killed by a school bus early Monday morning as she was crossing the street. Details released say Phann was walking to her own bus stop when a special needs bus with only one passenger hit her.

The accident occurred at 6:30 am while it was still dark with limited visibility, and the road was wet due to rain. Officials for the bus company say the driver, whose name has not been released at this time, has a 23-year spotless record.  They also claim that the bus was going approximately five miles per hour when it hit Phann.

Phann's uncle was present, and saw the accident take place. He says he had to wave the driver down after the impact, indicating the driver may not have realized that Phann had been hit.

The bus company's safety director, Keith Harms, said that an investigation is ongoing.

Phann's family say the girl was an eager, thoughtful student who wanted to be a doctor. She had already received several letters from schools interested in her achievements, and she was planning a birthday trip to Cambodia. Phann was a student at Lakota East High School in Liberty Township, Ohio. Her family and neighbors have put up a small memorial near the scene, and her school brought in grief counselors to speak with her friends and classmates about her death.

A school bus is a large, powerful vehicle, and even moving slowly an impact can cause tremendous injury to a young human body. Roughly 27 children of school age die in school bus accidents each year.  About 20 of those are pedestrians.

When looking at the number of fatal school bus accidents, we must keep in mind that school buses are the largest form of mass transit in the country.  Almost twice as many passenger trips are made in school buses than are made in transit buses. Almost half a million school buses carry 24 million students each school day. School bus related accidents account for only one third of one percent of traffic accident deaths.

Auto Accidents Cause Several Wrongful Deaths Over the Weekend

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Oftentimes, people hear statistics without really getting a sense of them. The news talks about how statistics show that driving is more dangerous than flying even though people drive all the time without getting into wrecks. Those people are the lucky ones… For the people who are involved in significant accidents, or have a loved one or relative that was involved in one, statistics of the dangers of driving are very real.

In Kentucky recently, 14 people were killed in three automotive accidents over four days. A Mennonite family was struck when a tractor-trailer crossed the median, killing 11 and leaving only two surviving children. Another tractor-trailer crossed the median into opposing traffic killing a woman on a motorcycle. Another woman died just blocks from her house when her car struck a tree. These accidents had different causes, but each one took lives. Yes, it is safe to drive on the roads in most cases, but proper driving is no guarantee of safety. A family observing all the laws and proper procedures can still end up involved in an accident and even killed if another driver loses control of a large truck or other massive vehicle and drives into them or forces them off the road.

State authorities are investigating the incidents above, particularly the two cases in which the medians were crossed. The causes of the accidents may have been issues with the roads themselves or possibly the fault of the drivers. For that very reason, traffic accidents are particularly difficult to investigate, especially on busy roadways such as interstates. Evidence can scatter, and every moment spent collecting information ties up the roads and costs time, money, and frustration to all involved. Regardless of those difficulties, the victims—or the victims’ families, as the case may be—deserve to know the truth of what happened, especially if findings can bring about safer roads or stricter rules for the kinds of vehicles that might have been at fault.

Woman and Pet Attacked by Bulldogs

Thursday, March 25, 2010

In Ohio, two unrestrained dogs attacked an unnamed woman as she was walking her own small dog. The attacking dogs, a pit bull and an American bulldog, were apparently after the woman's pet and rushed across the street when they saw the two passing by. The woman lifted her dog up in her arms to protect it and received numerous injuries as the two bulldogs tried to get at the smaller animal.

A man who was in the house that the two dogs had originated from ran across the street and defended the woman and her pet, kicking and pushing at the dogs in an effort to get them off her. Putting himself between the two parties, the man also suffered injuries as the dogs became more excited and began biting him as well. Both the woman and the man required medical attention. The woman's pet was unharmed.

The owner of the two dogs has been identified as Tessa Campbell, age 36. She claims that children in the house let the dogs out, but the authorities have still charged her with leaving animals at large. Campbell claims that the dogs have been vaccinated for rabies but could not recall the veterinarian's name. The county health board will be notified in regard to the incident, and the two dogs are currently being held in quarantine pending further investigation.

It is unclear whether the animals were let loose purposefully or simply by accident, but bulldogs and pit bulls have very powerful jaws and are very strong for their size in proportion to other dogs. Due to their strength, animals of these breeds require a higher degree of supervision for fear of the injuries these dogs can cause. Yet all manner of animals and pets, much like the aggressors in this case, frequently get loose and rarely does it end in an attack. Luckily, no one in this case was seriously injured, and it becomes another such event added to a long list in the debate over pet owners' rights versus community safety standards.

Insulation Spill Causes Motorcycle Wreck

Friday, March 19, 2010

This past Wednesday, a motorcycle crash injured the driver when insulation that spilled from a truck forced him to ditch his bike to avoid striking it. The 56-year-old motorcyclist has not been identified but was taken to the Reno Emergency Center for serious injuries.

Witnesses say they saw the roll of fiberglass insulation fall from the back of the truck, which forced the cyclist to ditch in an attempt to avoid colliding with it. The cargo vehicle did not stop, and witnesses say they do not think the driver was aware of what had actually occurred at the time. The Reno Highway Patrol is asking the public for any information they might have to help track down the truck driver.

All motorists are wary of tractor-trailers, and a healthy fear of them is common. The dangers surrounding large trucks on today’s roads are many, but trucks carrying cargo that is open to the air can elicit well-deserved nervousness and anxiety. The fact that the truck driver in this case did not stop is disturbing regardless of whether he knew of the danger he posed and the loss of cargo or not. That he could go unaware of such an event is a sobering thought. How exactly does one miss a large piece of insulation flying off their vehicle? How did it come loose in the first place? Just the same, even more disturbing is the notion that he might have known and kept driving anyway.

Standards for the acceptable ways of securing cargo vary from state to state, and no system is perfect… There may well be no specific fault to find in this case, as it could have simply been equipment failure. Yet the accident occurred on Wednesday and has received some degree of news coverage. Questions as to why the driver has not attempted to contact the authorities are reasonable, since by now he almost certainly must have noted or been told of the cargo missing from his truck.

As the NHP continues its investigation, they ask any parties with information to contact them through Trooper Harvey Brown regarding case number NHP-1003170235.

Dog Bites Toddler

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

In Semmes, Alabama, a three-year-old toddler was bitten more than 50 times by her neighbor’s three dogs. While full details are not clear yet, it is known that all three dogs attacked the child so aggressively that they hauled her off the ground and left her in need of over 160 stitches. The dog bite victim, Madisyn Shelton cannot sit up, but her doctors say there is no sign of infection, and she seems to be on the road to recovery.

The attack has, understandably, outraged Madisyn's family and shocked the community. The family has acquired the services of an attorney to represent them in this matter. They are considering filing a civil suit against the dogs' owner, one James White.

The attack was so violent that city officials are pursuing a statewide act that has not yet been used. In short, the act allows people to request that violent dogs be declared dangerous, allowing the state to seize them to be euthanized. As for James White, a warrant has been issued for his arrest, and he has not yet turned himself in.

Cases such as this illustrate the difficulties inherent in pet ownership within a community. Some owners feel their pets should have the freedom to roam and exercise, which can clash with a level of community safety that parents of small children naturally desire. The case also brings up questions about the proper role of the state in property ownership as well as an owner’s liability for a pet’s actions. There is no evidence that White's dogs had any prior history of attacking anyone. Yet the fact remains that they severely harmed this little girl with no apparent provocation and remain potentially dangerous to neighbors or other children that live nearby.

Madisyn continues to recover at a children's hospital, and her family has established a charity fund for anyone who wishes to help with the costs of her recovery.


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