Judge postpones ruling | RecordCourier.com

Judge postpones ruling

by Sharon Carter

District Judge David R. Gamble declined Tuesday to absolve former Douglas High School student Justin Maes from blame in the 1996 accidental death of schoolmate Erin Hackman, 17.

“I tend to think it (the case) has to go to trial,” Gamble said. “And I’ll issue a ruling after I decide.”

Maes, who was 17 at the time of the Jan. 6, 1996, accident, was the driver of a second car involved in the incident. Herman’s vehicle, crammed with seven passengers, sped down Genoa Lane, went through a stop sign, across Highway 395 and crashed into a utility pole. Hackman, an honor student at DHS, was killed and other occupants were injured.

At issue was a request for a summary judgment by attorney George Allison of Carson City, who represents Maes’ parents in a personal injury lawsuit brought by Hackman’s parents and the parents of Rhawnie Milliorn, who was injured in the accident.

Allison argued that there was no overt agreement to race between Maes and Herman.

Allison said it was Herman’s failure to negotiate the turn onto Highway 395 that was the direct cause of the accident and Hackman’s death.

“Miss Herman’s conduct was independent of Maes’ conduct,” Allison said.

Attorneys for Hackman’s estate and Milliorn’s family argued that the youths in both vehicles had been partying together all evening, and as the teens headed back into town from Genoa, Herman had initially passed Maes going about 45 mph. Then Maes, accelerating to speeds in excess of 90 mph, passed Herman’s vehicle.

Attorney Curtis Coulter of Reno characterized the high speed pass by as an act of negligence which served to draw Herman in to make the next negligent action – speeding too fast to stop at the intersection.

Gamble, who will review 370 pages of witness testimony before he issues his ruling, said he did not know if he would have a decision on the motion by Thursday when there is a settlement conference scheduled.

“And if they can’t agree whether the case can be resolved by settlement Thursday, it will go to trial,” Gamble said.

The Record-Courier E-mail: rc@tahoe.com

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