Lawsuit filed against Nicholas Crown Kunkler over Aspen wreck
The Aspen Times
A lawsuit was filed Monday in Pitkin County District Court against 22-year-old Nicholas Crown Kunkler, who received a four-year deferred sentence on a charge of felony vehicular assault earlier this month following a March accident that injured his passenger.
Aspen attorney Jeff Wertz filed the lawsuit on behalf of Jamie Fenn, 27, who was riding in the front seat of a sport utility vehicle driven by Kunkler that crashed on McSkimming Road in the early hours of March 16. The vehicle is owned by Kunkler’s parents, Susan Crown and William Kunkler, or by a corporate entity owned or controlled by the parents, the lawsuit says. Susan Crown is the sister of Jim Crown, managing partner of Aspen Skiing Co.
An Aspen Police Department report states that the SUV was exceeding the speed limit when it failed to negotiate a sharp right-hand curve in the road. The vehicle went airborne before colliding with a tree and a retaining wall, police said.
In addition to pleading guilty to felony vehicular assault, Kunkler also pleaded guilty to DUI. He was assessed fines totaling $4,965.50 and ordered to perform 80 hours of community service. He also must submit to random drug tests.
Both Kunkler and Fenn were injured as a result of the crash and taken to Aspen Valley Hospital for treatment. Fenn, who was wearing a seat belt, suffered broken bones in his right arm and elbow when his right arm struck and broke the vehicle’s windshield, according to the lawsuit.
Fenn underwent surgery “where a plate and multiple screws were installed permanently into (his) right elbow region,” the suit states.
“Kunkler owed a duty of care to Fenn to operate the vehicle in a reasonable, safe and prudent manner,” the suit says. “Kunkler breached this duty to Fenn by driving the vehicle off the road and causing the crash.”
The lawsuit further adds, “Kunkler drove the vehicle in such a manner as to indicate either a wanton or willful disregard for the safety of others, including his passenger: Fenn.”
The suit seeks a monetary award from a jury for Fenn’s pain and suffering as well as payment of his attorney’s fees.
Wertz, contacted by phone Monday evening, said that despite the incident, he believes Kunkler and Fenn remain friends.
“Fenn has a plate and screws in his elbow, and they are going to be left in there for life,” Wertz said.
Fenn’s medical bills were covered through insurance, “but now it’s a matter for a jury to put a price on the pain and suffering and impairment,” Wertz added.
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Aspen Mountain will be closed to uphill travel through April 26 due to events and snowcat work on the hill, but other options remain.