EUGENE, Ore. — A Eugene family whose lives changed after a drunken-driving crash 10 months ago faces continuing medical and financial problems and has sued the young driver involved with the wreck, along with his parents.
Chris Burgess was delivering newspapers with his then-10-year-old stepson, Ethan Hathaway, early Aug. 12 when a jacked-up pickup smashed into their truck head-on at Highway 99 North and Fairfield Avenue.
The truck driven by then-19-year-old Tyler Jarred of Junction City climbed the front of Burgess’ truck. The right front tire crushed the cab over Ethan.
The boy suffered brain injuries, broken bones and severe damage to his face and jaw and had to be cut out of the wreckage.
The Register-Guard reports Chris Burgess suffered minor physical injuries and trauma that has kept him from driving or working.
His wife, Calandra Burgess, is their sole source of income with a job at an auto repair shop. She said their finances are in disarray.
“It’s been a nightmare,” she said. “And the after-effects of all this are still a nightmare. It has forever seriously changed our lives. It has forever seriously changed our son.”
Jarred’s pickup flipped and slid into a gas station driveway on its top. He suffered a back injury and spent two days in a hospital.
Investigators said Jarred had a blood alcohol level of .21 percent, more than 2 1/2 times the legal maximum for an adult. As a minor, he should have had no alcohol in his body.
Jarred pleaded guilty April 17 in Lane County Circuit Court to assault, drunken driving and reckless driving. He was sentenced to 30 days in jail and allowed to serve the sentence on a county road crew.
Calandra Burgess said Jarred’s punishment cannot compare to the suffering of her family.
Ethan permanently lost 10 teeth, including his front teeth. He will undergo difficult procedures to complete dental repairs, she said, and will not be able to get implants to replace the missing teeth until he’s 18 to 20 years old. A cut on his face required 150 stitches. He needed surgery to reattach his severed lower jaw. He suffered bleeding on the brain and that damage is still being assessed.
Money was tight before the crash, she said, but the family has added bills for medical treatments, counseling and travel to doctor appointments. The couple often has trouble making their mortgage payment.
The Burgesses sought a financial settlement with Jarred and his parents. When that was unsuccessful, they sued for $5.6 million in damages for past and future expenses plus emotional and physical pain.
They named Jarred’s parents, Steven and Deborah Jarred, as defendants, contending that they owned the truck Jarred drove and paid for its maintenance and gas.
Their attorney, John Kilcullen, said the Jarreds are sorry for Ethan’s injuries but will oppose the lawsuit. He said the elder Jarreds should not be held responsible for their son’s acts.
“I don’t believe that there will be any evidence or proof that they are liable in any way,” he said.
The lawsuit claims Tyler Jarred was “well-known in the Junction City area for excessive use of alcohol and driving after consumption of alcohol.” It also claims Deborah Jarred knew her son had stopped at home and had been drinking the night of the crash and did not restrain him. Kilcullen denied that happened.
Deputy District Attorney Christopher Parosa said the charges were the most serious he could bring based on the facts of the case.
He said alcohol continues to wreak havoc on innocent families locally and nationwide.
“This story is sadly all too common,” he said. “It’s horrible for the family, and my heart goes out to them. But it’s pervasive in this community.”