A Jeep Cherokee driven by a 17-year-old struck a new mom, her baby daughter in arms, and a family friend who were walking to a concert in downtown Woodstock. All three died of their injuries. While the resulting death are certainly heartbreaking and tragic, a jury is about to decide the fate of the 17 year-old driver. Whether the deaths of Kaitlin Hunt, 3-month-old Riley Hunt and Kathy Deming were due to criminal actions or a simple accident will be decided in a Georgia courtroom as the driver faces nine misdemeanor charges, including second-degree vehicular homicide and distracted driving.
On-site and subsequent investigations involved cellphone records, witness interviews and a crash re-enactment informed by U.S. Naval Observatory expertise on how dark it was at the time. A Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office investigation concluded the pedestrians should have been visible; an expert defense witness disagrees. “I found that it was unavoidable,” said the defendant’s expert, a former Sandy Springs and Fulton County police officer who now owns an independent Reconstruction & Expert Consulting firm.
The driver of the Jeep has said she never saw the pedestrians. Investigators have determined she wasn’t speeding or under the influence of alcohol or drugs and the undisputed facts are that the pedestrians who were killed were wearing dark clothing, and the collision site at the time had no traffic lights or a marked pedestrian crossing zone, as it does now. The initial Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office investigation recommended no charges be filed. But, in an about-face, the County has brought criminal charges against the driver who was 17 years-old at the time of the wreck and is now 19.
As is the case in most situations like this, the outcome of the criminal trial may have an impact on any civil suit filed by the family of the victims and the proceedings will surely be closely monitored by all involved. In this case, there is an added element as the surviving spouse of one of the victims has filed a civil negligence lawsuit against the city of Woodstock. The wrongful death lawsuit cites a lack of signs, crosswalks, safety personnel directing traffic or other safety measures at the time. The city “knew or should have known that the traffic on Arnold Mill Road would pose a risk of unreasonable harm to the attendees coming to and from the concert,” the lawsuit says. A demand letter from the plaintiff’s attorney to the city of Woodstock demanded $4 million and that the other survivors were entitled to $2 million in compensation for medical and funeral/burial expenses and pain and suffering. One of the main defenses to the criminal charges is that the civil lawsuit spurred the criminal charges. “I hate to be a conspiracy theorist, but the city gets sued and suddenly the case is reopened,” defendant’s attorney argued during motions to the court.
For almost 25 years, Attorney Robert J. Fleming has been handling wrongful death cases, personal injury, dental malpractice and medical malpractice lawsuits for individuals and families who have been injured or died as a result of the negligence of others in and around the Atlanta, Georgia area, including Alpharetta, Brookhaven, Woodstock, College Park, Duluth, Decatur, Doraville, Hapeville, Johns Creek, Jonesboro, Lawrenceville, Norcross, Peachtree City, Riverdale, Roswell, Sandy Springs, Stone Mountain, and Smyrna. If you or someone you know has been seriously injured or died as a result of negligence and would like quality legal representation or if you would just like to consult about a potential case, contact Robert J. Fleming directly on (404) 525-5150 or contact us online.