Friday, May 3, 2013

Couple wins wrongful death lawsuit

Jury awards Hennefers $3.5 million from School District

Express Staff Writer

Mike Chatterton

    A Blaine County jury deliberated for about an hour and half early Wednesday evening before finding in favor of a Carey couple in the death of their son in 2010 and awarding the couple $3.5 million in damages from the Blaine County School District.
    In its verdict, the jury determined that Carey School driver-education instructor Jeffrey Mecham was 100 percent at fault in the Oct. 26, 2010, traffic accident that claimed the life of student driver Austin Hennefer, 15. The accident occurred at about 7:30 a.m. that day when Hennefer was practicing a three-point turn in a Carey School driver-education car on U.S. Highway 20 about two miles west of Timmerman Junction.
    The lawsuit was filed in 2011 by Hennefer’s parents, Dennis and Maryann Hennefer. The lawsuit contended that the roadway that morning was icy and slick and that “Mecham’s decision to conduct driving training classes that day and to practice three-point turns at that location was willful and reckless.”

“The limits we have on liability insurance are high enough to cover the $3.5 million.”
Mike Chatterton
District business manager

    The jury determined that Gooding resident Sergio Lopez-Rodriguez, who was also named as a defendant in the lawsuit, was not negligent when his vehicle struck the driver-education car while it was making the three-point turn.
    The jury further found that Austin Hennefer was not negligent in operating the vehicle.
Mecham was also originally named as a defendant, but was later removed from the lawsuit as an individual.
The six-day trial, conducted in Blaine County 5th District Court before Judge Robert J. Elgee, started on Tuesday, April 23. It was held throughout the week and recessed on Friday, commencing again on Tuesday, April 30.
The jury convened for deliberations at 4:57 p.m. on Wednesday and returned to court to deliver its verdict at 6:24 p.m.
School District Business Manager Mike Chatterton said Thursday that the district insurance carrier, Continental Western, is responsible for paying the Hennefers and that there is no deductible.
“The limits we have on liability insurance are high enough to cover the $3.5 million,” Chatterton said.

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