Nine months ago a Gloversville boy rode his bike out in front of an oncoming pickup truck and was killed.
Now the boy’s father is suing the driver of the truck for his wrongful death and the suffering his son endured. In a lawsuit filed in the Fulton County Clerk’s Office earlier this month, Steven Blaney claimed his 9-year-old son Johnathan’s death was caused by negligence on the part of Brian Wilson, whose truck hit the boy April 15.
Capt. John Sira of the Gloversville Police Department led an exhaustive investigation of the incident at the time and brought no charges as a result of it.
“We would have had to prove he did something wrong to charge him,” Sira said. “Under traffic law, he didn’t do anything wrong.”
Sira on Monday recounted his team’s findings. That evening Wilson was driving his Dodge pickup truck in the area of East Pine Street and Bloomingdale Avenue, the neighborhood where both he and Blaney lived. He made a full stop at an intersection, even rolling down his window to say hello to a man he recognized as his neighbor. Then he pulled a slow left turn, right into Johnathan on his bicycle.
“Johnathan was headed down the street to play with his brother,” Sira said.
The boy was not wearing a helmet or any safety gear. He fell under the tires of Wilson’s truck and was crushed.
Wilson stopped when he realized what happened. Johnathan was rushed to St. Mary’s Hospital but died from his injuries on the way. An autopsy showed that he died of chest injuries, which Sira said were caused by the truck rolling over him.
As terrible as the set of circumstances were that led to Johnathan’s death, Sira said Wilson was not legally at fault. He wasn’t speeding. He came to a complete stop at the intersection and he didn’t flee the scene afterward.
Beyond that, Sira said the Police Department couldn’t narrow down exactly where Johnathan came from on his bike.
On a basic level, fault comes down to whether Wilson hit Johnathan, or Johnathan darted out and hit Wilson. The police investigation couldn’t turn up enough proof for criminal charges, but according to David Taffany, an Albany personal injury lawyer representing Steven Blaney, civil cases don’t need as much proof.
“In criminal cases you have to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt,” he said. “Our burden of proof is lighter.”
Over the last few months, Taffany hired a private investigator to look further into the incident and he said there’s enough material to prove negligence.
He couldn’t discuss every aspect of the case, but said a few things uncovered by the police investigation suggest Wilson wasn’t paying attention to where he was going.
“If he was talking to a neighbor,” Taffany said, “maybe he wasn’t watching the road in front of him.”
He also argued that for Wilson to hit, then drive over a boy at such slow speeds he must have been negligent.
Taffany said Steven Blaney is seeking monetary restitution for the wrongful death of his son, along with Johnathan’s pain and suffering. He couldn’t comment so early in the proceedings on the potential dollar amount.
There are no appearances scheduled in the case yet, but Taffany said most similar cases he’s handled take a year to 18 months to resolve.
Steven Blaney and Brian Wilson could not be reached for comment Monday.