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Wrongful death suits filed in W.Va. fatal crash

July 28, 2006|by TRISH RUDDER

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - A woman whose son died after being struck by a car on U.S. 522 in 2004 has filed two separate civil lawsuits - one against the driver of the car and his wife, and the other against the Town of Bath Police Department.

Katherine McAnulty, on behalf of the estate of her son, Justin McAnulty, filed wrongful death suits against Brian Daniel Murray and Jackie Fischer-Murray, and against the town's police department.

Justin McAnulty was struck by a car driven by Brian Daniel Murray, 48, while riding his bicycle on U.S. 522 in June 2004, and died. He was 18.

A wrongful death lawsuit filed April 11 in Morgan County Circuit Court against the Murrays claims Murray's car struck Justin McAnulty's bicycle on June 15, 2004, about 9 p.m.

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According to the lawsuit, Murray inspected the damage to the front of his car, walked "in a northerly direction" toward the area where the impact occurred, but failed to render aid or provide medical assistance to McAnulty, "who lay injured off the west side of (U.S.) 522."

The suit claims Murray drove home and told his wife, and when they both went to the scene of the collision to inspect, they failed to render aid and/or medical assistance to McAnulty.

The Town of Bath Police Department was notified about an hour after the accident, when the Murrays returned home. A Bath police officer came to the Murray home and took Murray's statement. Murray said he thought his car struck a deer.

The next morning, Murray drove back to the scene, "and at that time he claimed to have discovered the bicycle and the body of ... Justin McAnulty," the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit claims while the Murrays "did not intend to cause the death of the decedent, they failed to act to afford the decedent life-saving medical care, thereby causing him to lie beside the roadway with grievous injuries which ultimately led to his death."

Three counts are included in the lawsuit. Count I is the liability of Brian Daniel Murray for negligent operation of a motor vehicle; Count II is the liability of both Murrays for failure to investigate, give information and render aid; and Count III is punitive damages. No specified monetary amount was given in the suit.

In February 2005, Murray was found guilty in a jury trial of failing to render aid at an accident involving death, and failing to maintain control of his vehicle. He was found not guilty of obstructing. Murray received a three-year sentence one year in prison and the balance in home confinement - where he continues to serve.

Murray filed an appeal of the jury's decision to the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals on June 15.

A pretrial hearing for the case is set for April 5, 2007, and the trial date is May 8, 2007.

Murray's attorney, B. Craig Manford of Martinsburg, W.Va., did not immediately return a phone call Thursday seeking comment. Jackie Fischer-Murray declined to comment on the case.

A separate civil action suit against the Town of Bath was filed June 15.

The wrongful death suit claims the Town of Bath "failed to ensure that their employees ... were adequately trained and experienced with internal investigative procedures ... and accident investigation techniques."

The suit claims the town police officer who went to the Murray home to investigate the accident was negligent in his investigation by failing to properly investigate the collision, and failed to proceed further with the investigation or "seek additional law enforcement assistance to do so."

John Vanorsdale, the police officer who conducted the investigation at the Murray home, was not named in the lawsuit.

Town of Bath Mayor Susan Webster said Vanorsdale no longer works for the police department. Webster declined to comment on the lawsuit.

The lawsuit includes Count I for liability, and Count II for damages. No monetary damages were specified in the suit.

Richard Gay, the town's attorney, did not return a phone call Thursday seeking comment.

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