The man who ran into and killed 78-year-old Mary Deats of Ogden, Utah, has pled guilty to negligent homicide. The pedestrian accident happened on July 22, 2008, when the man, Aaron Derrick Summerill, 25 years old, also of Ogden, hit Ms. Deats as she was crossing Harrison Blvd. near 15th Street around 10 p.m. According to Utah news accounts, after Mr. Summerill hit Ms. Deats, he fled the scene. Maybe because he had a controlled substance in his system?
The original charges against Summerhill included failing to remain at the scene of an injury accident and driving with controlled substances in his system. Under the plea deal approved by the Ogden city prosecutor, Mr. Summerhill will plead guilty to negligent homicide and the prosecutor will dismiss the other charges. He faces a maximum of one year in jail.
Sounds like a sweet deal for Summerhill. Not so sweet, however, for Ms. Deats and her surviving family members. The sole remaining charge amounts to a slap on the hand for a hit and run while driving under the influence. Pedestrians have the right to feel safe as they cross the street in properly marked crosswalks. Motorists have a duty to stop and yield to pedestrians crossing the streets. This man failed to follow basic rules of the road. And when he realized he had injured someone, perhaps killed them, what did he do? He completely shirked his responsibility under Utah law and as a moral and law-abiding citizen by fleeing the scene. And now prosecutors want to give him a break?
If Ms. Deat’s family has not already done so, they should investigate bringing a civil action against Mr. Summerill and/or his insurance company and should contact an experienced Ogden pedestrian accident lawyer to do so. In my opinion, the driver is clearly liable. The amounts of insurance available, however, will likely not even come close to the value of what was lost from Mr. Summerill’s actions.