Pennsylvania Record

Friday, September 20, 2019

Defendants taking steps to appeal $32M wreck in case of fatal car wreck

By Carrie Bradon | Mar 9, 2016

PITTSBURGH - An appeal seems to be coming of a $32 million Allegheny County verdict in a lawsuit over a fatal motor vehicle accident.

In December, jurors ruled unanimously against defendants in a case brought by the parents of six-year-old Elijah Straw, who was killed in a 2012 accident when Kirk Fair, an employee of Golon Masonry Restoration, rear-ended their car after they had pulled over when the hood popped up.

John Perry, of Rosen Louik & Perry in Pittsburgh, said there has not been an appeal yet, but the prerequisite for the appeal has been put in motion.

The lawsuit stated that on May 1, 2012, the father, Thomas Straw, and mother, Jennifer Straw, were in the car with their son, Elijah Straw, and their younger son, Rowan Straw, when the accident occurred.

According to the case, the Straw's 2004 Pontiac Vibe SUV was rear-ended by a pickup truck, which was being operated by Kirk A. Fair.

Straw was operating his family's vehicle when the hood popped up, making it necessary for him to pull over to return it to the proper position. The suit states that Straw turned on the car's hazard lights, and shortly afterwards, noticed Fair's truck approaching the car, without any signs of decreasing the speed.

Upon impact, Mr. and Mrs. Straw sustained broken ribs, concussions and broken vertebra. Meanwhile, their four-year-old son, Rowan sustained a broken femur, as well as seizures.

However, at the hospital, following the accident, their son, Elijah, was declared dead. The Straws sued Fair and Golon Masonry Restoration, citing negligence, and Fair was given a sentence for six to 23 months of imprisonment, as well as 10 years of probation.

Although both Fair and Golon were found to be liable, the verdict was not divided, according to Perry.

"It wasn't divided because it was admitted that the driver was the employee of the parent company, and he was within the course and schedule of his employment, so Golon Masonry was going to be vicariously liable for his conduct anyway," Perry told the Pennsylvania Record.

Perry said recreating the events of the crash for the court was not as hard as it can be in other cases.

"It wasn't that difficult in this case because the Golon vehicle, as with all vehicles made after a certain date in the United States, was equipped with two black boxes," he said.

"And so those black boxes were subpoenaed and confiscated by the State Police, and they downloaded the data, they had very specific data as to the speed of this vehicle, both before and at impact."

The information from the black boxes was crucial evidence for this case, he said.

"We had a very good recreation of the accident itself," Perry concluded.

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