Family files suit in fatal crash

Published 10:05 am Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Criminal charges still pending

SOUTH POINT — The family of a South Point girl who died in a traffic accident has filed a lawsuit against the driver, his father, and Geico insurance agency.

Sherry Adkins and Marsha McGinnis filed the lawsuit June 15 in Lawrence County Common Pleas Court. The civil action seeks compensatory and punitive damages in an amount to be determined at a jury trial in excess of $25,000 for both Christopher Haines and William Haines.

It also seeks compensatory and punitive damages also in an amount in excess of $25,000 to be determined at a jury trial from Geico as well as prejudgment interest, attorneys’ fees and any other relief the court deems just and proper.

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McGinnis’ daughter, 10-year-old Angel McGinnis, was killed in an accident on State Route 93 in Jackson in December 2010.

Christopher Haines was reportedly driving a Jeep Grand Cherokee when he rear-ended the vehicle McGinnis was driving. McGinnis’s vehicle was stopped in the southbound lane of the highway at the 10-mile marker. Her car then skidded left of center where it was struck by a car driven by Deborah Miller of Columbus. Miller was northbound on State Route 93. At the time of the accident, Haines was under the influence of drugs, according to a release by the Ohio State Highway Patrol at the time of the accident.

Christopher Haines is facing criminal charges relating to the accident. Haines has pleaded not guilty to vehicular assault and aggravated vehicular homicide charges in the case. A jury trial is set for Aug. 8 and 9 in Jackson County Common Pleas Court.

The lawsuit alleges that on the day of the traffic collision, Christopher Haines was negligent and reckless in his operation of a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol and that he demonstrated malice or egregious conduct entitling the family to punitive damages. As a result of the accident, the lawsuit claims, the plaintiffs lost a life and suffered pain, incurred expenses for medical attention and Marsha McGinnis was prevented from employment.

It also alleges that William E. Haines, Christopher Haines’ father, was negligent and reckless in providing Christopher Haines with the vehicle for his use.

The lawsuit also alleges that Geico, breached its contract with the family and acted in bad faith by denying a claim for insurance benefits and did so without reasonable justification and adequate investigation.

Haines did not have auto insurance and Geico denied the family’s claim despite their having an auto insurance policy with Geico that included uninsured and underinsured motorists’ coverage, according to the lawsuit.

“Geico breached its duties to exercise good faith and fair dealing and in fact acted in bad faith in its processing, investigation, evaluation and the handling of the plaintiff’s claim under the policy by refusing to provide insurance coverage and the insurance benefits to the plaintiffs for the covered claims they made under the policy, in denying claims without reasonable justification thereof,” the lawsuit states in part.

According to a copy of the insurance policy attached as an exhibit to the legal document, Marsha McGinnis was listed as an additional driver on the declarations page of a policy issued to her mother and stepfather, Sherry and Everett Adkins. However, in a letter dated Jan. 12, 2011, the insurance agency denied claims relating to the accident because Marsha McGinnis and her children were not resident relatives of Adkins.

“It’s a tragic accident and it’s sad that the family has to go through this when they had insurance and has to fight against their own insurance agency,” said Bill Mundy, a Huntington, W.Va.–based attorney who represents McGinnis and Adkins in the lawsuit.

As of Monday, the defendants in the case had not answered the claims in the lawsuit.

Reached Monday afternoon, William Haines declined to comment or say whether or not he had obtained an attorney.

It is unclear whether or not Christopher Haines has an attorney for the civil suit. A call to Geico’s corporate office was not returned as of press time.