Caleb Sullivan, 16, was killed by an SUV in a Taylor County, Florida car accident. The driver of the SUV has been identified as Shirley Thomas. According to a press release by the Florida Highway Patrol, Shirley Thomas was traveling west on US 27 and Caleb Sullivan was walking east. The press release can be downloaded here: Caleb Sullivan Killed in Traffic Accident (Taylor County Florida).pdf
The press release further claims that the Caleb failed to see the on coming SUV and walked into its path of travel. It further states that Thomas tried to avoid the collision but struck Sullivan with the front right portion of her SUV.
As an injury attorney I find these conclusions to be VERY questionable. In fact, Caleb Sullivan’s family may be entitled to very substantial compensation for his death.
First of all, how on Earth does FHP know what Caleb Sullivan saw or didn’t see? How do we really know that Shirley Thomas tried to avoid the collision?
Don’t you think it is very interesting to learn that the point of impact was on the front right of the vehicle… the exact spot where you would expect an inattentive driver to hit a pedestrian standing on the side of the roadway, but doing nothing wrong?
As a trial attorney, it is my job to ask the tough questions. Nothing should be taken for granted.
Maybe the FHP report is correct. But how do we know?
Who else was present? What does the evidence on the roadway tell us?
At 62 years old, what was Shirley Thomas doing driving at night? How good or bad is her vision? What about her night vision? Were her headlights on? Are there any eye witnesses? What do skidmarks and road debris tell us?
If FHP drew its conclusions based on the mere representations of one single person – Shirly Thomas – then their conclusions come into question.
While Shirly Thomas may be a good person and an honest person, she was nonetheless involved in a major car accident where a young boy was killed. Her version of events needs to be corroborated.
In the absence of a rebuttal, it is wrong to conclude that her version is the only version.
Now, let me clarify a couple things. First of all, this case is still under investigation. Second, we, the public, do not know all the facts. Maybe when the full story does come to light we will see that Thomas’ version of events is corroborated.
However, if experience has taught me anything, it is to double check the work of police investigators.
In a court of law, evidence is the only thing that matters.
If FHP is going to blame Caleb for this accident, then the evidence must support it. For instance, did FHP conduct a blood draw on Thomas? If so, what do the results tell us? Was she impaired? Was she under the influence of any pain medications?
This is why an independent investigation is necessary. An accident attorney needs to review the police reports, pour over the evidence, and determine if FHP’s conclusions are supported by evidence or the mere assertions of one party.
This case is utterly tragic and absolutely must be investigated to the fullest. My condolences go out to Caleb Sullivan’s family for their loss.