Fatal crash leads to civil lawsuit: Jamestown driver, firms named in suitThe parents of two children killed two years ago when a semi truck ran a red light on U.S. Highway 2 west of Grand Forks have sued the driver and three companies, including UPS.
By: By Stephen J. Lee, Forum Communications, The Jamestown Sun
The parents of two children killed two years ago when a semi truck ran a red light on U.S. Highway 2 west of Grand Forks have sued the driver and three companies, including UPS.
Kevin Boyer Jr., 41, and Catana Boyer, 35, filed the lawsuit Oct. 31 seeking at least $50,000.
The driver, Steven Nelson, 64, of Jamestown, N.D., and two Jamestown companies filed denials last week. They also asked that a lawsuit filed by UPS against them be dismissed.
A hearing in the civil case is scheduled for next month in state district court in Grand Forks.
The 2010 accident was horrifically violent, ripping open the Boyers’ van and throwing one of the children out. A witness said the truck appeared to be going 55 mph or faster when it ran a red light and struck the van.
Kevin Boyer and his youngest son were injured and hospitalized for several days. Nelson was not seriously injured.
The driver pleaded guilty to criminal charges last year and served 60 days at home with electronic monitoring.
The accident happened around 10 a.m. Dec. 22, 2010. Kevin Boyer was northbound on Grand Forks County Road 5, just south of the airport. With him were his children, Kevin Boyer III, 5, and Xxaxx Boyer, 3, as well as his wife’s daughter, Kaylee-Jo Marie Wyatt, 8.
His van was in the middle of the intersection on a green light, waiting for southbound traffic to clear so he could turn west.
A Volvo truck eastbound on Highway 2 went through the red light and slammed into the driver’s side of the van, killing the two older children.
Within months, Nelson, the truck driver, was charged with two counts of negligent homicide, each a felony with a maximum prison sentence of five years; and a count of aggravated reckless driving, a misdemeanor with a maximum prison sentence of a year.
In an agreement with prosecutors, Nelson pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to a year in jail with all of it suspended except the 60 days.
The Boyers’ attorney, Patrick Weir of Fargo, alleges Nelson’s “recklessness, carelessness and negligence… caused the collision” that killed the two children, and injured their dad and brother.
Because Nelson was driving the truck “under the license or authority of” and “within the scope of his employment with” Wiest Truck Line of Jamestown, its subsidiary Simplex and UPS, those companies also are liable for his “acts and negligence,” Weir argues.
Kevin Boyer suffered “permanent and severe physical injuries,” Weir says in the suit. Both parents have suffered financially, including funeral expenses, and lost “comfort, guidance, advice, companionship, counsel, assistance and protection, among other things… suffered economic and non-economic damages, including mental suffering and grief.”
They demand “compensatory damages” of at least $50,000, “plus interest, costs, disbursements and further relief as to the court may seem just and equitable.”
Attorney Paul Oppegard of Moorhead, who represents Nelson, Weist and Simplex, said his clients all deny the Boyers’ claims. Any damage claimed was “the fault, responsibility or result of actions or inactions of others over whom” his clients are “not responsible,” the attorney argues.
In one instance, there also is a “lack of jurisdiction,” Oppegard says, “as Wiest Truck Line, Inc., is dissolved and no longer a legal entity.”
He asks for the dismissal of the Boyers’ claim and UPS’ “cross-claims.”
The Boyers separated a few months after the crash in February 2011 and divorced later that year, according to court documents.
In part because of Catana Boyer’s medical issues, the couple agreed their surviving son should live with Kevin Boyer while she would get visitation rights. They agreed in their divorce affidavits that it was not “practical” to think she would be able to pay child support.
The couple agreed to split evenly any damages won in the lawsuit, with Kevin Boyer pledging 5 percent for their son and Catana Boyer 10 percent because of the lack of child support.
Still, a judge ordered her to pay $3,200 a year in September 2011. The first annual payment was due Sept. 1 this year.
When she failed to show up last week for a hearing to explain why she hasn’t paid, a magistrate Monday declared her in contempt of court and issued an arrest warrant.