The family of a teenager killed in an April 2019 car crash has filed a lawsuit against the man serving a prison sentence for the girl’s death, as well as the man’s father and an insurance company.
Dawn Hustad and Kris Meduna, parents of 16-year-old Alexis Meduna, filed suit last week against Samuel Hamilton, his father Bruce Hamilton and Nodak Mutual Insurance Company.
Samuel Hamilton pleaded guilty to criminal vehicular homicide in February 2020 and was sentenced in May 2020 to 10 years in prison. He was drunk at the time of the crash and failed to stop at a stop sign.
His actions on April 6, 2019, are at the heart of most of the suit.
“Samuel W. Hamilton operated his vehicle in such a careless and negligent manner as to directly cause it to collide with the vehicle in which decedent, Alexis M. Meduna, was a passenger through various acts and omissions, including, but not limited to: 1) failure to maintain proper control of his vehicle; 2) failure to maintain a proper lookout; 3) failure to obey the traffic control signals in place for his direction of travel; 4) failure to drive at a speed that was safe and prudent under the then-existing conditions; 5) failure to obey the traffic rules and regulations in force and effect at that time and place; 6) operating a motor vehicle while distracted; and 7) operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated,” attorneys for Meduna’s parents wrote.
Attorneys for Hamilton argued in a reply that other people might have contributed to the accident, reducing his responsibility.
“(The) plaintiffs’ claims and alleged damages, in connection with the incident, may have been the direct and proximate result of the acts, omissions, negligence, failure to mitigate damages or other fault of Plaintiffs or others, for which Hamilton is not responsible,” his attorneys wrote. “Therefore, any recovery may be barred or reduced pursuant to the doctrine of contributory negligence and comparative fault.”
Bruce Hamilton, Samuel Hamilton’s father, was named because he owned the truck his son was driving at the time of the crash. Because Bruce Hamilton was aware of his son’s driving record, he shouldn’t have allowed his son to use his pickup, the suit argues.
“On and prior to April 6, 2019, Defendant, Bruce W. Hamilton, knew or should have known of the poor driving record of Defendant, Samuel W. Hamilton, that included prior offenses for the unsafe operation of a motor vehicle when speeding, failing to obey traffic signals, and operation while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, among other things,”. the suit reads.
Both Bruce and Samuel Hamilton’s responses claim Alexis Meduna wasn’t wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash, something that could have contributed to her injuries or death.
“Pending completion of discovery, Bruce affirmatively alleges that it was unreasonable for the Alexis M. Meduna to not wear a seatbelt at the time of the alleged accident, and that Alexis M. Meduna would not have received some or all of the injuries complained of if a seatbelt had been reasonably and properly worn,” lawyers for Bruce Hamilton wrote. “Therefore, Plaintiffs are not entitled to recover damages, if otherwise entitled to recover damages, for any damages or injuries that would have been prevented, reduced or
avoided by the reasonable and proper use of a seatbelt.”
Nodak insured the teenage boy who was driving the Jeep that Meduna was a passenger in at the time of the crash. Her parents included the company because Samuel and Bruce Hamilton didn’t carry enough insurance to cover the costs.
Nodak Insurance has asked a judge to dismiss the complaint against the company, saying the process of trying to collect money to be paid out is still going on. Furthermore, attorneys for the company wrote, the question of whether Samuel Hamilton qualifies as an underinsured motorist hasn’t been decided.
“Until this case is resolved, Plaintiffs are (1) unable to establish that Samuel Hamilton was an underinsured driver … and (2) the amount of the “limits of all bodily injury liability policies’’ that apply, and would be taken into account by (state law),” attorneys for Nodak wrote. “Plaintiffs’ (underinsured motorist) claims are not yet ripe for adjudication, because the claim against Hamilton has not yet been fully adjudicated.”
Hustad and Kris Meduna had not yet replied to Nodak’s motion to have the suit against the company dismissed as of Thursday, May 27.