Civil Claim by Harry Dunn’s Family May Go Ahead in US, Judge Rules

Civil Claim by Harry Dunn’s Family May Go Ahead in US, Judge Rules
A motorcycle pin is seen on the shirt of Charlotte Charles, the mother of British teen Harry Dunn who was killed in a car crash on his motorcycle, during an interview in the Manhattan borough of New York City, N.Y., on Oct.15, 2019. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

Harry Dunn’s family can make a civil claim for damages against the teenager’s alleged killer Anne Sacoolas and her husband, a U.S. District Court has ruled.

U.S. District Court of Virginia Judge Thomas Ellis on March 3 ruled to allow the claim against Sacoolas and a claim of “vicarious liability” against her husband, which, under the state law, means he could be liable for Dunn’s death by allowing his wife to use the car involved in the fatal accident.

The case could still be settled out of court. If no settlement is reached, the next step is “deposition,” where Sacoolas and her husband would have to give their accounts of the event.

Radd Seiger, spokesman for the Dunn family, said that “common sense has prevailed.”

“Harry’s family are very pleased at the ruling today and that their claims have been allowed to proceed in full,” he told the Press Association news agency.

“They are also pleased that Mr Sacoolas will also have to be deposed so that they can learn the full account of what happened on the night Harry died.”

Sacoolas, 43, was allegedly driving on the wrong side of the road in her SUV in August 2019 when she collided with 19-year-old Dunn on his motorcycle near RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire, where her husband was working.

Three weeks later, Sacoolas and her husband left the UK to return to the United States, claiming diplomatic immunity. She was later charged with death by dangerous driving, but her lawyer said she would not return voluntarily to face trial. An extradition request made by the UK government to both the Trump and Biden administrations failed.

The Dunn family then filed a civil claim in Virginia for damages against Sacoolas, which was allowed to move forward on Feb. 17.
During the dismissal hearing on Feb. 3, it was discovered that Sacoolas, like her husband, was also possibly working for U.S. intelligence services and left due to “issues of security.” If that had been known at the time, her diplomatic immunity may have been waived.

In the Feb. 17 ruling, Ellis said, “While it is commendable that Defendant Anne Sacoolas admits that she was negligent and that her negligence caused Harry Dunn’s death, this does not equate acceptance of responsibility.

“Full acceptance of responsibility entails facing those harmed by her negligence and taking responsibility for her acts where they occurred, in the United Kingdom.”

The maximum sentence for death by dangerous driving in the UK is 14 years.

On March 3, during Prime Minister’s Questions, South Northamptonshire MP Andrea Leadsom asked Prime Minister Boris Johnson whether he would “try to persuade President Biden to deliver justice for Harry.”

Johnson said that he sympathised “deeply with his family.”

“It’s a case that we continue to raise at the highest level,” he said, noting Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab had raised the case “only just now” with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.