Man files lawsuit over 2018 crash where car hit gator on I-95 in SC, killing wife and kids

State - Regional

BOWMAN, SC (WBTW) – A man has filed a lawsuit over a 2018 crash where a car hit an alligator on Interstate 95, killing his wife and kids.

Orangeburg County Chief Deputy Coroner Sean Fogle said 24-year-old Amber Stanley, her 4-year-old son Jack and 2-year-old daughter Autumn all died from burns after their car hit a tree and caught fire after hitting the alligator, according to an AP report. Fogle said the family was from Callahan, Florida.

Highway Patrol Lance Cpl. Judd Jones said the alligator was crossing the northbound lanes of I-95 near the Interstate 26 exit when Stanley’s Kia Soul hit the animal around 12:50 a.m., the Associated Press report said. Joshua Stanley said he’s the family’s lone survivor and was out of town when his wife and kids were heading for a weekend getaway in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Joshua Stanley spoke about the crash to Florida station WJXT, saying he’s filed a lawsuit in the case.

“I don’t want anyone else to have to go through it,” said Stanley to WJXT, who believes the vehicle’s design is to blame. “So hopefully this will be able to spur some change and get some safer vehicles on the road.”

The wrongful death lawsuit was filed in Orangeburg County on May 21 by Stanley against the South Carolina Department of Transportation, Kia Motors Corporation, Kia Motors America, Inc., and Hyundai America Technical Center, Inc.

Amber Stanley was driving northbound on I-95 in Orangeburg County on May 7, 2018 with her two children, the lawsuit said. Amber was “properly restrained in the driver’s seat using the lap and should belt provided” in the vehicle, and the two children were “properly restrained in their respective child safety seats in the back seat.”

Amber hit an alligator crossing the highway near mile marker 86, lost control of the car, traveled into the center median, hit a tree and the car caught fire, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit said that the Kia defendants “as the designer, manufacturer and distributor” of the car involved in the crash “owed to the general public, including the deceased, the duty to design, manufacture, test, market, and sell vehicles that were reasonably safe, and/or not unreasonably dangerous to use.” The lawsuit alleges the “defendants breached that duty in the following manner”:

  • “The vehicle fuel delivery system was designed in a manner that it unreasonably allowed gasoline to escape and ignite in the foreseeable frontal collision.”
  • “The vehicle was not adequately designed to prevent a post-collision fuel fed fire.”
  • “The floor pan, surrounding structures and vehicle frame lacked sufficient strength to resist crumpling in the event of this foreseeable frontal collision.”
  • “The fuel system, including the fuel tank, lacked protection from post-collision fire by impact damage to the subject vehicle.”
  • “Adequate warnings, both pre-sale and post-sale, were not provided to users of the subject vehicle, including plaintiff, about the unreasonably dangerous and defective condition of the vehicle and the vehicle’s propensity to leak fuel, ignite, and become engulfed in fire after a foreseeable frontal collision.”

The lawsuit alleges the Kia defendants “misled consumers as to the safety features of the vehicle and the integrity to withstand a frontal collision” in marketing and advertising campaigns.

The lawsuit also alleges the deaths of Amber Stanley, Jack Stanley, and Autumn Stanley “were directly and proximately caused by the defendant SCDOT’s careless, negligent, reckless, willful and/or wanton acts” in the following:

  • “In failing to properly design, locate, install and maintain the fencing along the tree line parallel to the roadway designed to keep wildlife from encroaching upon and crossing the roadway.”
  • “In failing to inspect the roadway for hazardous conditions such as wildlife, including alligators, on the roadway during mating season.”
  • In failing to remove trees in the median between the northbound and southbound lanes to create a traversable and unobstructed roadside area (clear zone) extending beyond the edge of the high-speed roadway.”

The lawsuit further alleges that SCDOT failed to remove trees in the median of the interstate.

“SCDOT had a duty to maintain, inspect, and/or correct conditions in the median between the northbound and southbound lanes of I-95 in Orangeburg County, South Carolina, including removing trees to create a clear zone from the edge of the interstate roadway into the median.”

The lawsuit claims Joshua Stanley is “entitled to recover on behalf of the estate of Amber Stanley, the following”:

  • “conscious pain, suffering, and emotional distress”
  • “funeral expenses”
  • “lost wages, including future earnings”

The lawsuit also claims that Joshua Stanley is “as a personal represnetative of the estate of Amber Stanley, is entitled to recover the following”:

  • “loss of support and companionship from May 7, 2018, into the future”
  • “Mental anguish as a result of Amber Stanley’s injury and death on May 7, 2018, into the future”
  • “Pain and suffering as a result of Amber Stanley’s injury and death on May 7, 2018, into the future”

The lawsuit further claims that Joshua Stanley is “entitled to recover the following” as “a personal representative of the estates of Jack Stanley and Autumn Stanley”:

  • “mental pain and suffering as a result of each decedent’s injury and death on May 7, 2018, into the future”
  • “the loss of each decedent’s support and services from May 7, 2018, into the future”

The full lawsuit can be read here.

Kia Motors America, Inc. responded to the lawsuit on June 28, saying, in part, “plaintiffs have failed to state facts sufficient to constitute a cause of action upon which relief can be granted, and therefore, plaintiffs shall not recover against KMA.”

The full response by Kia Motors America, Inc. to the lawsuit can be read here.

SCDOT also responded to the lawsuit, saying, in part:

“The defendant, SCDOT, alleges that if the plaintiff sustained any injuries or damages as set forth in the complaint, the same were due to and proximately caused by the sole, willful, wanton, reckless, careless, and negligent acts and conduct of a third party or parties over which this defendant has no control resulting in injuries and damages for which the defendant SCDOT has no liability.”

SCDOT’s full response to the lawsuit can be read here.

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