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Judge: Indiana city not immune to claims in fatal crash suit

February 23, 2022 GMT

ELKHART, Ind. (AP) — A northern Indiana city is not immune to claims raised by a lawsuit alleging that it shares responsibility for a hit-and-run crash that killed two children and a man, a judge has ruled.

The city of Elkhart had sought summary judgment against the suit’s claims after denying any responsibility in the August 2017 crash, where a Mishawaka man struck five pedestrians in Elkhart as they were walking along a sidewalk.

The crash killed 8-month-old Dolly Thomas, 11-year-old Courtney Smith and 22-year-old Shawn Wolcott and injured the two other pedestrians.

The complaint filed on behalf of the two surviving pedestrians and the families of those killed contends the city was careless in failing to maintain the sidewalk at that location, and that the city was aware of vehicles driving over the curb.

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The city’s attorneys contend the accident’s sole cause was Leonard Grosswiler, who was sentenced to 15 years in prison after pleading guilty to leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death, and other charges.

But Elkhart County Circuit Court Judge Michael Christofeno denied the city’s motion earlier this month in an order that said the suit is based on questions that would be best decided by a jury, The Elkhart Truth reported.

“As long as competent evidence has been designated in response to a summary judgment motion, weighing the evidence, no matter how decisively the scales may seem to tip, is a matter for trial, not summary judgment,” he wrote.