A mother and daughter are attempting to hold two passengers responsible for an incident in which a SUV ran over a teenage girl at a 2018 stargazing party atop Buttermilk.
The mother and daughter, who are being sued in Pitkin County District Court, are using a Colorado statute that allows the defendant to identify someone who is not named in the lawsuit as a party at fault.
In an Oct. 10 filing, attorneys for the mother and daughter claimed their liability in the incident, if any, should be reduced while assigning the blame to two individuals — one boy and one girl — for an incident stemming from the night of July 25, 2018.
It was then that a different girl, who currently attends Aspen High School, suffered what her lawsuit said was a brain injury and permanent disability after an unlicensed teen driver ran over her at a ranch off of West Buttermilk Road.
That led the victim, who was 16 at the time of the accident, and her father to file a negligence lawsuit in August against both the female driver, also a student at the high school, and her mother.
The suit is pending before Judge Chris Seldin. It alleges the girl didn’t have valid insurance or a driver’s license at the time she mistook the vehicle’s gas pedal for the brakes, driving over the defendant.
The driver’s mother faces negligence claims based on allegations she lent the SUV to her daughter knowing she wasn’t licensed or insured. The suit also claims the mother, prior to the accident, had lent her vehicle out some 20 to 25 times to unlicensed friends of her daughter.
The defendants are seeking dismissal of the suit while settlement discussions are ongoing, according to a case management order that Seldin signed Thursday.
In an Oct. 10-dated court filing, the defense designated an Aspen man, who was 17 at the time of the accident, as an at-fault non-party to the suit. The filing claims he initially had driven the GMC Yukon, but turned over the keys to another girl, who also was designated as an at-fault party.
By the time they reached the entrance to the ranch, the defendant’s daughter got behind the wheel.
Both drivers-turned-passengers should be held responsible for the accident, the filing said, because they knew the girl was not a licensed driver who “was creating an unreasonable risk of harm to the other juveniles on the property,” the filing says.
After the Yukon stopped, the plaintiff girl hoisted herself atop the SUV to watch the stars, similar to what her teen friends were doing on other vehicles, the suit contends. That’s when things went awry.
“While (the alleged victim) was on the top of the hood of the stationary Yukon, defendant … floored the gas. (The victim) was thrown off the front of the Yukon and sucked under the driver’s side wheel. … The Yukon went over (the victim’s) head and her left hand. (The victim) thought she was going to die,” the suit says.
Party-goers then took the girl to Aspen Valley Hospital where she was treated for injuries. The suit claims the defendants’ negligence altered the victim’s life to the point where she continues to need both physical and psychological treatment.
Defense attorneys Billy-George Hertzke of Denver and Mary-Lisa Sullivan could not be reached for comment Thursday, while a lawyer for the plaintiffs said the move to place responsibility on the two passengers is reflective of the defendants’ deflecting blame.
“This filing is consistent with the defendants’ position that everyone is at fault except for the person driving the car that ran over (the younger defendant),” attorney Ryan Kalamaya of the Aspen firm Kalamaya|Goscha said Thursday.
Because the victim and the driver are both students at Aspen High School, The Aspen Times is not identifying them by name because they were minors when the accident occurred. The Times also is withholding the parents’ names to protect their daughters’ identifies.