Skyline Mechanical, driver face lawsuit over pedestrian collision
On Sept. 9, 2020, 8-year-old Jario “Nikolas” Palacios Montes was struck and dragged by a Skyline Mechanical truck driven by Troy Harris. The accident occurred at the intersection of U.S. Highway 6 and Valley Road in Gypsum.
Montes, who was crossing the street walking his bicycle, suffered life-altering physical and emotional trauma from the incident, according to a lawsuit filed on Sept. 28 by local firm Bloch and Chapleau on behalf of Montes and his parents, Jorge Gonzalez and Laura Hemosillo.
The lawsuit is still in its “infant” stages, explained Joseph Bloch, attorney and partner at Bloch and Chapleau. He said Montes’ case has yet to proceed to the discovery phase. The complaint and jury demand outlined nine claims for relief to the plaintiffs. The claims against Harris include negligence, negligence per se, extreme and outrageous conduct, willful and wonton conduct, reckless endangerment, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. Skyline faces three claims of relief for negligence: respondeat superior, negligent entrustment and supervision, and negligent hiring.
“Defendant Harris’s willful, wanton, and reckless conduct was without regard to consequences, or the rights and safety of others, particularly Plaintiffs, and caused Plaintiff’s injuries, damages and losses,” the complaint reads.
The defendants declined to comment through an attorney.
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According to the lawsuiit, Harris admitted to Eagle County Sheriff’s Office deputies at the accident scene that he was distracted while driving, telling them he “was on the phone with his boss” when he made the right-hand turn in his truck and that he “did not see the child or the bicycle” at the time of the collision.
Bloch said the lawsuit emerged because the defendants and plaintiffs disagree on the extent of Montes’ injuries and what they are worth in terms of compensation. Bloch said he hopes the defendants handle the lawsuit responsibly.
“They’re not bad people, but to have Nikolas and his family go through litigation, they should just compensate him and move on, you know, but they’re not there,” Bloch said.
After Harris hit the boy, he continued to drive, unaware of what happened, dragging Montes several yards, according to the lawsuit.
“So he was dragging the bicycle and Nikolas and some guy saw it and ran in front of the car,” Bloch said. “He stopped him from driving and said ‘you have a kid underneath your car.’”
Bloch said it was so lucky that Nikolas survived the incident because Harris could have easily kept driving.
The injuries Montes sustained from the accident were severe. He had several broken bones, that included facial fractures, and suffered a traumatic brain injury, Ongert said. Many of Montes’ scars will never heal, Ongert said. He suggested Harris was likely driving “way too fast,” considering the extent of Montes’ injuries.
“He has huge scars on his legs, on his arms,” Ongert said. “He doesn’t wear t-shirts in the summer anymore because he is embarrassed.”
Bloch and Ongert said that Montes’ case is about awareness, and that in growing towns like Gypsum, drivers need to pay attention while on the road.
“Gypsum is evolving, people must be more careful,” Ongert said. “There are more cars, there’s less patience in the world and people just need to not be distracted while driving.”