Two years ago, Allegheny County court gave Eugene Straw’s family a $35m damage award for the death of their six years old son in a fatal road accident. The court found 41 years old, Kirk Fair responsible for the crash.
Recently, a Split Pa. court voided the award and sent the lawsuit to Allegheny court for another trial. The court stated that Senior Judge Paul F. Lutty Jr erroneously freed some defendants like Straw’s father, Thomas, from the suit. Judge Judith Ference summarized the court’s majority opinion.
The accident occurred after the Straw’s family vehicle’s hood opened while cruising in Allegheny County on Route 28. Upon noticing, Thomas Straw quickly stopped the automobile in the middle of the highway’s lane. He lit his flashers to alert oncoming motorists.
Kirk Fair, from North Buffalo, was driving a pickup on the same highway at the same time. The truck belonged to Golon Masonry Restoration Inc. investigators discovered that Fair leaned to collect some folders which had drooped to the vehicle’s floor. He bumped into Thomas Straw’s car cruising at 17mph.
During his prosecution, Fair pleaded guilty to homicide charges. He also admitted having endangering lives by driving recklessly and over speeding. In 2014, the county court sentenced him to 23 months imprisonment.
In 2015, the court heard Thomas Straw’s lawsuit against Golon and Fair. By then, judge Lutty had removed some co-defendants who Kirk and Golon wanted to be included in the trial. They included two service stations and an auto parts shop that repaired Straw’s car. Kirk and Golon accused Thomas Straw of driving an automobile with a faulty hood latch. However, Lutty dismissed the defendant’s claim.
While ordering a new trial, Judge Olson deemed it appropriate for the second jury to determine whether the parts store, Thomas Straw, and the two service stations should be held responsible for the grisly accident. Judge Victor Stabile had a dissenting opinion. He opposed granting the case a new trial. He stated that Fair’s negligence was overwhelming rendering the actions of other defendants irrelevant.
Stabile noted that the accident occurred at around 7:30 pm. Besides, it was on a bright day, and the particular road has a 55mph maximum speed limit. He noted that apart from over speeding, Kirk wasn’t attentive. He delayed applying his emergency brakes hitting Eugene and killing him instantly.
Judge Stabile wrote that if Fair were prudent while driving, he would have seen Thomas Straw’s vehicle. He had clear visibility of over 2,000 feet and would have avoided the collision.