Wednesday, November 9, 2011

School District denies negligence in fatality

Response filed to ‘wrongful death’ lawsuit


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

The Blaine County School District claims that neither the district nor one of its teachers was negligent or reckless in a traffic accident last year that claimed the life of a Carey School sophomore.

The district's claims are included in an answer to a lawsuit filed by the parents of 15-year-old Austin Hennefer, who was killed on the morning of Oct. 26, 2010, while driving a Carey School driver-education vehicle on U.S. Highway 20 about two miles west of Timmerman Junction.

The plaintiffs, Dennis and Maryanne Hennefer, alleged in the lawsuit that driving instructor Jeffrey A. Mecham, who also teaches special education at Carey School, was negligent and reckless in having Austin Hennefer perform a three-point turn on the highway while it was covered with ice and there was poor visibility.

The driver training car, a 1996 Buick Century, was struck while making the turn by a 1993 Honda Accord driven by Gooding resident Sergio Lopez-Rodriguez, then 45. Austin Hennefer was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash.

The Hennefer lawsuit was filed Sept. 21 by Twin Falls attorney Jeffrey J. Hepworth. Defendants are the School District, Mecham and Lopez-Rodriguez.

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The district's answer, which includes Mecham, was filed by Boise attorney Donald J. Farley on Oct. 25. It states that "plaintiff's injuries, if any, were proximately caused, in whole or in part, by the negligence or fault of the deceased Austin Hennefer and/or persons or entities other than the school district."

The Hennefers are seeking unspecified monetary damages, stating in the lawsuit that they have been "deprived of their son's comfort and society, love, affection and companionship as well as the services to his family."

According to court records, Lopez-Rodriguez has retained Pocatello attorney Kent L. Hawkins as legal counsel but has not yet filed an answer to the Hennefer suit.

Following an investigation by the Blaine County Sheriff's Office, the Blaine County Prosecuting Attorney's Office opted not to file charges against either party involved in the accident.

Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com




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