Veneta Father of Teenager Killed After Being Struck by SUV Sues Driver and the State of Oregon for Wrongful Death

The State of Oregon, two of its employees, and SUV driver Joseph Paul Merris have been named defendants in a wrongful death lawsuit seeking over $3.4 million in financial compensation. Delno Williams, the father of 18-year-old psychiatric patient Heather Williams, filed the lawsuit in Umatilla County Circuit Court.

Heather died last December after she jumped out of a moving Department of Human Services van on Interstate 84 close to Milepost 205. She was then struck by an SUV driven by Merris. Heather died of her motor vehicle accident-related injuries.

According to the wrongful death complaint, the state of Oregon, the Department of Human Services, and Blue Mountain Recovery Center employees Renee Avenson and John L. Jones were negligent because they did not put Heather in a vehicle with a cage so she couldn’t jump out. The suit also alleges the failure to train and instruct employees correctly so they would have acted preemptively to prevent Heather from getting out of the van. According to an internal report, this was not the first time that Heather had tried jumping out of a moving vehicle, and center workers had been warned to transport her in vehicles with child-proof locks and a cage.

Mr. Williams is suing SUV driver Merrill for allegedly driving too fast (based on the road conditions at the time), failing to look out properly, and neglecting to control his motor vehicle.

Wrongful Death in Oregon
In Oregon, surviving family members have three years from the time of the victim’s death to file a wrongful death lawsuit against all negligent parties. Even if the victim was partially at fault in causing the accident, Oregon’s comparative negligence doctrine allows family members to recover an amount proportionate to what a jury deems reflects the defendants’ percentage of fault in causing the wrongful death.

In Portland, or anywhere else in Oregon, your best chances for a successful wrongful death case outcome is to retain the services of an experienced Portland wrongful death lawyer today.

Girl’s father suing state, employees, The East Oregonian, July 21, 2008
Death of Oregon teen who jumped from van spurs suit, KTVZ.com/AP, July 21, 2008
Related Web Resources:

State of Oregon: Department of Human Services

Wrongful Death Overview, Justia