A jury has awarded $1.251 million to a Steamboat Springs woman who was a passenger in a pickup involved in a fatal crash Feb. 5, 2011.

Photo by Matt Stensland

A jury has awarded $1.251 million to a Steamboat Springs woman who was a passenger in a pickup involved in a fatal crash Feb. 5, 2011.

Routt County jury awards $1.251 million to accident victim

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— A Routt County jury has awarded $1.251 million to a Steamboat Springs woman who was a passenger in a car involved in a fatal crash Feb. 5, 2011.

"My client's life is forever changed," Steamboat Springs attorney Rick Eddington said. "There are no winners in this case. It's tragic for everyone."

The crash occurred just west of Steamboat during a snowy night while fireworks lit up the sky over Howelsen Hill during the Winter Carnival Night Extravaganza. Jenna Erickson, 22, was driving toward Steamboat on U.S. Highway 40 when her 1994 Buick LeSabre went straight through a righthand curve near a road leading to the Silver Spur subdivision. The passenger side of her car struck an oncoming Dodge Ram pickup.

Erickson suffered critical injuries and was pronounced dead after being taken from the crash scene to Yampa Valley Medical Center.

An autopsy report showed Erickson had 5.1 nanograms of active THC per milliliter of blood in her system. A law signed by Gov. John Hickenlooper this past May deemed someone driving under the influence if their THC level was 5 nanograms.

The Colorado State Patrol considered the marijuana impairment a major contributor to the crash. The Patrol also determined Erickson sent a text message at or very near the time of the crash.

The two people inside the pickup that Erickson hit were seriously injured in the crash, but both survived.

According to Eddington, the driver of the pickup, David Moll, suffered a traumatic brain injury, and he never was able to return to work. Eddington said Moll received a settlement from Erickson's insurance company, Liberty Mutual, for the maximum $250,000 Erickson's policy allowed. Moll died this past October from a suspected heart attack.

Moll's passenger, Mary Ray, also suffered life-changing injuries. Eddington said Ray had a mild traumatic brain injury, suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, broke her ankle and had lower back injuries that require pain management.

"The lower back injury is progressively worse and likely to require surgery in the future," Eddington said.

Eddington said Liberty Mutual offered Ray a $275,000 settlement right before the trial, but he said they had to take the case to court.

"We just had too many expenses," Eddington said.

After the seven-day trial that concluded Friday, the foreman for the seven-member jury, retired Steamboat Olympic Nordic combined skier Johnny Spillane, delivered the verdict. The jury awarded $575,000 in non-economic damages for factors such as pain and suffering. The jury also awarded $676,000 in non-economic damages for such things as past and future medical bills and lost wages.

Eddington stressed he did not view the jury's award as a victory. It was a tragic accident, he said, and lives were forever changed.

"I can't relay enough how terrible I feel for Ms. Erickson's family and everyone else," Eddington said.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland

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Comments

rhys jones 4 months ago

A comment, and a question:

-- The Powers That Be seem to be "puffing up" the THC angle, while paying lip service to and downplaying texting while driving, the likely cause of this accident.

-- This article fails to mention the defendant in this action. Since Ms. Erickson is dead, who is to pay all this money?

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Mark Ruckman 4 months ago

"Eddington said Liberty Mutual offered Ray a $275,000 settlement right before the trial, but he said they had to take the case to court."

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rhys jones 4 months ago

I guess I'm having trouble seeing how the insurance company is held liable for amounts beyond the policy limits, even on a per-claimant basis -- would think Jenna's personal estate would be liable for those additional levies.

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Erinn Cook 4 months ago

Well it's been 31 years since I earned my journalism degree, but I have to agree this story is lacking some basic facts as noted above. Also, some facts were included that have no place in a news story. Using Johnny Spillane's name is not newsworthy in this case. It is sensational and disrespectful to Ms. Ray and the memory of Mr. Moll and Ms. Erickson.

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john bailey 4 months ago

that's what I thought too, Erinn , what's the matter with naming the other jurist ? oh , nothing like name dropping , I also thought we were gonna get some real investigative journalism , didn't some one promise that awhile back? hey, MOD why is the reply function not working?

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Alice Parton 4 months ago

I have been following this story since 2011. The original article about this accident states Ray's injuries were minor:

"Erickson, Moll and his passenger, 51-year-old Mary Ray, also of Steamboat, were taken to Yampa Valley Medical Center.

Doctors at YVMC worked for three hours to save Erickson, but the injuries to her abdomen, chest and head were too severe. Moll and Ray suffered minor injuries and were treated and released."

So, I notice that this article claims, "Moll's passenger, Mary Ray, also suffered life-changing injuries."

Why are the stories different?

I would also like to state my opinion, that if anyone should receive over a million dollars because of this accident, it should probably the parents of Ms. Erickson. They lost their only child. Can you image? THAT is life-changing. And THAT would cause post-traumatic stress. THAT affects two people's jobs and everyday life. Especially considering her family was not contacted to notify them that their daughter was killed. Her mother read the news online here at Steamboat Today. What a tragedy.

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Alice Parton 4 months ago

Oh, and something else I have noticed in this story is that they tested Ms. Erickson's blood and found THC in her system, 5 NANOGRAMS ( that's 1/billionth of a gram by the way and could have been in her system from two weeks ago), however they did not test the other driver in the accident for alcohol or drugs. Why not?

And then to also see a law is passed after this accident that declares any person driving with 5 nanograms of THC to be under the influence? Something smells fishy.....

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