Four suits now pending against Lipseys over Tesla crash into Maroon Creek
Two more negligence lawsuits have been filed against members of a former Aspen family over a Tesla crash involving five high school students in November 2018, increasing the total number of civil complaints over the matter to four.
Separate suits introduced Nov. 4 and Nov. 5 in Pitkin County District Court accuse negligence against driver Joseph Lipsey IV over the crash that resulted in two of the Tesla’s five occupants being seriously injured. The suit also named his parents, Joseph Lipsey III and Shira Lipsey, as defendants, as well as the family company American Emergency Response, a water and ice supply business that also held title to the Tesla.
One of the most recent suits, filed by Colorado Springs firm Sears & Associates on behalf of one of the passengers who was hospitalized, accused the parents of operating a permissive household where drugs and alcohol were readily available for consumption to adults and teens. That loose environment was the precursor of things to come, the suit said.
“This is a case about reckless parenting, a fast Tesla, and a teenage son who has been taught by his parents to believe that extreme wealth inoculates its owners to the consequences of bad behavior,” the suit said.
The suit claims the younger Lipsey was permitted to drive where he wanted to, when he wanted to, “notwithstanding his lack of driver’s training or valid driver’s license.”
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“This history of recklessly permissive conduct at the Lipsey’s Aspen residence and the negligent entrustment of the Tesla to Joseph by his parents led to the catastrophic night of November 7, 2018, when Joseph flipped the Tesla into Maroon Creek with a car full of his teenage classmates,” said the suit, which also named one of the passengers as a defendant.
Lipsey IV was not originally behind the wheel the night the Tesla crashed, according to the suit. Rather it was the plaintiff, the suit said, who had test-driven the vehicle to entrance gate of the Maroon Bells, then pulled over on the side of the road.
At that point, the 17-year-old driver was coerced by one of the passengers and Lipsey IV to let Lipsey IV take the wheel. That’s what he did, and to the protest of the other passengers, was topping speeds of 90 mph before losing control of the Tesla between the road’s mile markers 2 and 3, where it began a broadside slide of 37 feet on the roadway and “continued to slide another 27.8 feet off the road until it became airborne for another 41 feet and struck a tree mid-air with its front end,” the suit said, noting the Tesla then went 172 feet down an embankment into Maroon Creek, where it landed right-side up and partially submerged.
While creek water rose slowly in the Tesla and others managed to escape, the unconscious plaintiff/passenger was trapped inside the vehicle for nearly 50 minutes before authorities could extricate the victim, the suit said.
That suit also named the passenger who allegedly, with Lipsey IV, coerced the plaintiffs to give up the keys. Both Lipsey IV and the passenger “exerted pressure through statements, intimidating body language, and coercive conduct toward (the plaintiff) to achieve this unlawful goal,” the suit said.
That same passenger who is a defendant in one suit also is suing the Lipseys through the firm Springer & Steinberg PC in Boulder. That suit, however, makes no reference to the family’s alleged party lifestyle, instead focusing on Lipsey IV’s reckless behavior and failure to obey traffic laws and his parents’ allowing him to operate the Tesla though he did not have a driver’s license.
Lipsey IV was 18 years old at the time of the crash. He pleaded guilty in May 2020 to felony vehicular assault, as well as to misdemeanor counts of reckless endangerment and drug possession. He was sentenced to probation for two years.
The Lipsey couple was sentenced in July to one year on probation and 200 hours of community service each after pleading guilty to one misdemeanor count each of providing alcohol to minors. Those charges were not related to the November 2018 crash, but instead a January 2019 party. Joseph Lipsey III currently lives in Chatanooga, Tennessee, and Shira Lipsey in the Atlanta area, according to one of the lawsuits. The younger Lipsey currently is enrolled in college, according to court complaints.
Two lawsuits from the two other passengers also have been filed against the Lipseys in Pitkin County District Court. Those two suits have been served on the defendants; the two more recent filings have not, according to court records.
As of Sunday, there was no record of attorneys entering their appearance on behalf of the Lipseys or other defendants in the litigation.