Suit brought against Lipseys over Tesla crash on Maroon Creek Road

Tracks from a Tesla that missed a turn on Maroon Creek Road and flew down an embankment into the river in November 2018.
Anna Stonehouse / The Aspen Times file

The first of four negligence lawsuits against a former Aspen family over a car crash that occurred nearly three years ago off Maroon Creek Road was filed this week in Pitkin County District Court, according to a plaintiff’s attorney.

Daniel Bencel, who is representing one of the injured parties in the first suit to be filed, said Friday that three more complaints will be coming against Joseph Lipsey III, Shira Lipsey, Joseph Lipsey IV, and American Emergency Response and Recovery LLC.

“What’s truly frustrating to the injured parties is that the criminal cases have been resolved, but the insurance company has held this up,” said Becnel, who has offices with his wife, Kathryn, in Aspen and New Orleans. “The Lipseys can move forward but the individuals injured are still fighting this everyday.”

Lipsey IV was 18 years old in November 2018 when he was driving a 2017 Tesla X at approximately 75 mph when it missed a turn and crashed, sliding nearly 40 feet off the road and ultimately going airborne, according to the Colorado State Patrol. The SUV then struck a tree before heading more than 170 feet downhill, overturning twice before before stopping in Maroon Creek, the CSP said.

Lipsey IV pleaded guilty in May 2020 to felony vehicular assault, as well as to misdemeanor counts of reckless endangerment and drug possession. He was sentenced to probation for two years.

The lawsuit filed this week said the plaintiff was the passenger and “lost consciousness from the crash and her injuries, but awoke and was able to escape the flooding Tesla in freezing temperatures. Instead of assisting the other passengers, Defendant Joseph Lipsey IV left the car and all other individuals. … Joseph Lipsey IV did not help any of his passengers.”

Becnel said the plaintiff suffered neck and back sprains, a concussion, and “is still dealing with the emotional after-effect” of spending the night in a creek after a harrowing auto crash.

The Tesla that Lipsey IV drove was given to him by his parents — defendants Lipsey III and Shira Lipsey — who knowingly let him drive without a license, the suit alleges.

“Defendants Joseph Lipsey III and Shira Lipsey purchased the Tesla for Joseph Lipsey IV despite the fact he did not have a valid driver’s license at the time. The Lipseys allowed him to drive the Tesla without a license and later alone when he only had a driving permit,” said the suit, which seeks a jury trial and punitive damages.

The Lipsey couple were sentenced in July to one year on probation and each 200 hours of community service after pleading guilty to one misdemeanor count each of providing alcohol to minors. Those charges were not related to the November 2018 crash, but instead a January 2019 party.

The Lipseys currently live in Tennessee and could not be immediately reached Friday afternoon.

“The insurance companies of the Defendants, AERR, previously filed suit in Federal Court in Denver and in Pitkin County Court to limit the insurance coverage available to the injured Aspen passengers. In both cases the judges denied their requests,” said a press release from the Becnel firm.