A local man has been convicted of manslaughter for his role in a fatal car accident in Parnell, Missouri. The incident highlights the dangers of vehicles towing trailers or other equipment, as well as some of the rules and regulations that control these trailers. It also shows how developments in a criminal case can impact an associated wrongful death claim.
Tractor Involved in Fatal Car Accident
The incident happened on April 24, 2017.
At 5:40am, 60-year-old Virginia Burns, of Parnell, Missouri, was driving her Chevy Tahoe on Missouri Highway 46, just south of the town of Parnell. 71-year-old Marlin Meyer was driving a tractor on Highway 46 in the opposite direction, with an anhydrous applicator in tow. However, the applicator—which is used to till and fertilize soil—was not in its upright position. Instead, it stretched nearly 43 feet across the highway; into the oncoming lane of traffic.
Unaware of the danger, Ms. Burns crashed into the applicator’s frame.
Emergency crews pronounced her dead at the scene.
Farmer Indicted for Manslaughter
Three months after the fatal car crash, Mr. Meyer was indicted on felony counts of involuntary manslaughter for his role in the accident.
At the time of the crash, it was against the law to drive farm equipment on a public highway in Missouri outside of daylight hours. The law has since been changed: Last June, Governor Greitens signed a bill that allowed farm equipment on the road at any time, provided it was properly lit.
Police officers who responded to the crash, though, had also found that the applicator’s frame was poorly secured. This likely contributed to its extension into the oncoming lane of traffic, and the crash.
Guilty Verdict and Wrongful Death Case
On June 6, a jury found Mr. Meyer guilty of second-degree involuntary manslaughter. Second-degree involuntary manslaughter is a crime under Missouri Statute 565.027, which outlaws causing the death of someone else through criminally negligent acts.
Evidently, the jury had found that it was beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Meyer was behaving so poorly before the crash that it amounted to criminal negligence.
The sentencing portion of the trial will take place on July 11.
Ms. Burns’ family has also filed a wrongful death case against Mr. Meyer and against his farm. In this case, Ms. Burns’ children and husband are seeking compensation for the loss of their mother and wife, claiming that Mr. Meyer’s negligent conduct was to blame for her death.
Criminal verdicts like these can all but end an associated wrongful death case because a finding of negligence has already been done. This leaves little to discuss in the civil lawsuit for wrongful death, aside from the amount of damages that the family deserves to recover.
St. Joseph Car Accident Attorneys at the Smith Law Office
The car accident and personal injury attorneys at the Smith Law Office in St. Joseph represent accident victims throughout western Missouri. Contact us online or call us at (816) 875-9373 for the legal help you need.