A 4th District judge has dismissed a $10 million lawsuit involving a 19-year-old Brigham Young University student who was killed last year by a drunken driver fleeing police. The suit had been filed against Provo City by the family of the young man and by a passenger in the man's car.
Judge George E. Ballif dismissed the suit Friday without prejudice, not because of the merits of the lawsuit but because of a procedural problem, city officials said.Ballif ruled that a plaintiff who sues a governmental entity must file certain security undertakings with the court before or at the same time it files the complaint. The same is true prior to filing a complaint against a peace officer.
"Plaintiffs admit that they made an error, but they argue that the error is inconsequential and that the court should overlook it and allow the lawsuit to continue," Baliff's ruling says.
The dismissal without prejudice ruling allows the plaintiffs to refile the lawsuit if they wish.
But Provo Mayor Joe Jenkins said, "Provo City has no liability in this case and we are prepared to defend vigorously the conduct of the police officer in the performance of his duties."
Chad M. Weaver, Spokane, Wash., was killed March 28, 1987, when Jerry R. Meissner ran a red light at the intersection of University Avenue and First South. Meissner was intoxicated and was fleeing Provo police, reports said. He was eastbound on First South when his pickup, going approximately 70 mph, smashed into a pickup driven by Weaver.
Meissner is now serving one to 15 years in the state prison for automobile homicide.
The suit was filed in July by the boy's parents, James and Brenda Weaver, his sister Jamie, and Cynthia Rippstein, a passenger in Chad Weaver's vehicle who was seriously injured in the accident. They are asking $2.5 million each in damages.
The suit names Provo City, the Provo Police Department and Officer Philip A. Webber as well as Jaime R. Meissner, brother of Jerry and a passenger in his pickup at the time of the accident, and the California firm Forte Hotels International Inc.
Provo City filed the request for a dismissal in August. Forte Hotels International, owners of the Travelodge Motel at 124 S. University Ave., have also asked that the suit be dismissed.
The suit says the motel prevented Meissner and Weaver from seeing each other's vehicles as they entered the intersection.
The suit also claims that Webber unlawfully pursued Meissner's vehicle and "negligently, willfully, recklessly and unlawfully failed to abandon said pursuit and chase."