Tragic Hwy 82 crash spurs new lawsuits
DENVER – The families of one person who was killed and another who was severely injured in a car-semi crash on Highway 82 have settled a lawsuit with the driver of the big rig and are now suing the pilot-car driver who accompanied him.
The two children of Noemy Ramos Jiminez, who was killed in the accident, filed a lawsuit in federal district court in Denver on Monday against Sonrise Pilot and David Hainault and other unknown pilot-car drivers. The lawsuit claims negligence on the part of the pilot-car drivers contributed to the accident. They are seeking damages in an amount to be proven at trial.
A similar lawsuit was filed in late December by Julio Hernandez Mendoza, who survived the accident but was severely injured. The suit claims Hernandez Mendoza suffered a severe brain injury and will require long-term care. The litigation was filed on his behalf by his father and guardian.
The tragedy unfolded shortly before dawn on Jan. 8, 2008. Two tractor-trailers departed private property on the north side of Highway 82 near Catherine Store in the midvalley. They were destined for Buttermilk ski area, where they were delivering temporary offices needed for the ESPN Winter X Games.
The first rig successfully pulled across the westbound lanes of the highway and turned east on the road. The second rig, driven by Mark Chamness, was forced to wait for traffic traveling in the eastbound lanes. The rig’s trailer allegedly sat across the westbound lanes of the highway.
A Kia Sophia driven by Elizeo Trinidad, 21, and carrying Ramos Jiminez, 23, in the front passenger’s seat and Hernandez Mendoza in the rear seat slammed into the trailer. Both front-seat occupants were killed instantly.
Chamness was charged with two counts of vehicular homicide and one count of vehicular assault. A jury found him not guilty after a six-day trial last June.
Chamness and his employer, Davidson Industries, were targeted by Hernandez Mendoza in a state court civil lawsuit seeking damages. His attorney, Sanders Karp of Glenwood Springs, said they received an out-of-court settlement last year. The Garfield County court clerk’s office confirmed a stipulation among the parties was approved and the case was dismissed Aug. 31.
The settlement included the heirs of the other two victims even though they weren’t formally plaintiffs, according to Karp. The settlement amount was confidential, he said. “It was some money for everybody.”
The pilot-car drivers weren’t charged in the case, which has no bearing on civil litigation.
The lawsuit by Hernandez Mendoza against Sonrise Pilot, Hainault and the other pilot-car driver claims they failed to adequately prepare the rig of Chamness and his employer for the trip in the dark. The mobile office allegedly didn’t have the proper lighting or warnings.
“They allowed, directed, or approved the operation of the Chamness-Davidson vehicle in such a manner that when said vehicle entered Highway 82, it could not safely travel across the intersection but rather blocked the westbound lanes of Highway 82,” the lawsuit says.
The other lawsuit against the pilot-car drivers and company was filed on behalf of Ramos Jiminez’s children by the court-appointed conservator of their finances, Maritza Ramos Arevalo. The children, who are minors, now live in El Salvador. Their attorney is David Lenyo of Aspen.
That lawsuit claims the pilot-car operators committed numerous acts and omissions of “negligence, carelessness and recklessness” in the accident.
Sonrise Pilot is listed in the lawsuits as a firm in Moffat County, Colo., but no contact information could be found for them.
The family of Elizeo Trinidad isn’t a plaintiff yet in the lawsuits against the pilot-car firm and drivers.
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