Most personal injury attorneys know that sometimes, an accident is all about a chain of events. That’s exactly what a jury found this year when they determined that the father of a 12-year-old driver who died as the result of a car accident he caused was negligent in teaching his son to drive illegally on public roads. The Daily News reports it appeared to be a case of oversimplified causation. In other words, but for Loren Fry teaching Jake Fry to drive illegally, the circumstances that led up to his wrongful death might not have occurred. The situation itself, however, is a slightly more complicated one.
Jake Fry died on February 27, 2007, and his father was actually nowhere near the car when the accident occurred. In fact, his son was driving a 1993 Ford Taurus belonging to his father’s girlfriend, Kelley Hill. She was in the passenger seat at the time of the crash, and her 12-year-old daughter was also along for the ride.
No one, except for those in the car at the time, knows exactly what happened. But this jury didn’t think it mattered, since they concluded Loren Fry was actually more at fault than Hill. More than likely, the jury rationalized that by teaching his son to drive illegally, Loren Fry created a foreseeable risk that his girlfriend might do the same. Perhaps she had been in the car during one of their driving lessons. Maybe allowing Jake to drive without his father in the car was something she had done before. It’s even possible that Loren Fry had given her permission to do so.
Although Hill initially claimed the boy wrestled the keys from her that day, further research yields yet another reason why Hill may have allowed Jake to drive that day; in January of that same year she had been ticketed for driving without insurance and following too closely. Days before the crash that resulted in Jake being put on life support before he died, Hill had received another citation for driving almost double the speed limit in a 25 mph zone. Hill’s story raises several interesting questions like: How did a 12-year-old child take the keys from an adult? How did Hill end up in the passenger’s seat of the car if this was indeed the case? Whatever the reason, Jake Fry was driving an excessive 80 mph in a 30 mph zone when he lost control of the car and crashed into another vehicle.
Hill pled guilty to second-degree manslaughter and third-degree assault in 2008. She was sentenced to five years, but was released this June after serving jail time. You may be wondering how it is that the jury found Loren Fry to be more at fault, yet Hill was the one who served time in prison. The answer is a simple one:Loren Fry’s trial was not a criminal one. This most recent trial was a civil trial in which Fry sought to have the insurance settlement from his son’s death evenly distributed between himself and his ex-wife.The jury’s verdict ensured that 94 percent of the original $125,000 settlement went to Kathy Fry while Loren Fry will receive six percent (an estimated $6700, according to The Daily News).At this point it’s almost certain that after legal fees, almost no monies will remain from that award of $6700. Some might say that’s a good thing, and well-deserved.