Kansas has dropped the parents of two sisters killed in a crash from a lawsuit seeking to recoup $116,832 for repairs to a highway barrier damaged in the wreck.
The Kansas Department of Transportation said Thursday that “legal action to recover highway damages after accidents is routine” but that “in this case” it would remove the parents of 7-year-old Ruth Solome Vazquez-Hernandez and her 1-year-old sister, Teresa de Jesus Vazquez-Hernandez, from the case. The agency offered no explanation, but the announcement came one day after The Kansas City Star reported on the lawsuit.
A tractor-trailer slammed into a minivan driven by the girls’ mother, Angelica Hernandez-Valentin, as she slowed on Interstate 435 in the Kansas City suburb of Leawood on Feb. 18, 2018. Ruth and Teresa were killed, and Hernandez-Valentin and two of her sons suffered serious injuries. One of the boys had a leg amputated, said Scott Bethune, an attorney for the parents.
Two years later, to the day, the state sued the family.
“The anniversary of the loss of Ruth and Teresa brings back sad memories anyway. For this to be done on that date compounds their grief. But the family is happy with the decision to dismiss them from the case,” Bethune said, adding that neither he nor the family has had contact with the state.
The suit had alleged Hernandez-Valentin did not have a valid driver’s license and was negligent for not moving off the interstate when her minivan failed to reach “a reasonable speed.”
Bethune said Hernandez-Valentin was moving to the right shoulder with her hazard lights on because the minivan was loosing power. The issues with “her driver’s license had nothing to do causally with this collision,” he said.
The agency will continue to seek damages from the truck driver, William Spring, of Corning, Iowa, and the owners of the truck and trailer, Brown Truck Leasing Corp. and Greenfield Logistics Inc. The department alleges Spring was negligent for “driving too fast for conditions on the roadway” and was following too closely.
The parents were also in the process of finalizing a confidential settlement of their wrongful death claim against Spring and the owners of the tractor-trailer.
Michael Kirkham, an attorney for Spring and Greenfield, said he couldn’t comment on the case. And Timothy Wolf, an attorney for Brown, didn’t immediately return a phone message from The Associated Press.
Spring doesn’t have a listed phone number.