Family of 5-year-old killed in crash suing driver, ToyotaMichelle Wierson. Photo provided by the DeKalb County Sheriff's Office
The criminal case against Michelle Wierson, the driver accused of causing a crash that took the life of 5-year-old Winnona Park student Miles Jenness, is still pending.
The boy’s family is now pursuing a civil case against Wierson and Toyota, the company that made the vehicle Jenness’ father was driving when the crash occurred.
Wierson’s attorney in the criminal case, Corinne Mull, previously said her client is mentally ill and was “in the throes of a psychotic break” on Sept. 27 when she allegedly slammed into two vehicles with her Volkswagen on Midway Road at South Candler Street in Decatur. The crash fatally injured Jenness.
While police initially charged Wierson with driving under the influence, those charges weren’t presented to the grand jury for reasons that still aren’t clear. The grand jury did indict her on charges of vehicular homicide, reckless driving, and battery. She has pleaded not guilty to those charges.
The civil suit, filed on July 3, alleges manufacturing defects in the family’s 2008 Toyota Corolla and Wierson’s negligence caused the collision.
Bruce Hagen, the attorney representing the Jenness family, said the family wants to make sure there’s accountability for their son’s death.
“Miles Jenness’ life was taken due to no fault of his own or that of his family. He was a wonderfully gifted, 5 year old child loved by many,” Hagen said. “The Dekalb District Attorney’s office is pursuing justice against Michelle Wierson, the driver who is responsible for Miles’ death, through the criminal court system. Ms. Wierson’s actions are inexcusable, and she needs to be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law, both criminally and civilly.
“To that end, on July 3, 2019, the parents of Miles Jenness filed a civil lawsuit against Michelle Wierson. The Jenness family has also sued Toyota for its role in the death of their son. The Jenness family is hopeful that, by including Toyota in the lawsuit and holding Toyota accountable for its role in this preventable tragedy, other families may be spared the unbearable heartache that they have had to endure since Miles was taken from them. Both Michelle Wierson and Toyota should be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law for their callous conduct.”
Attempts to reach Wierson’s attorney were unsuccessful.
A Toyota spokesperson said the company hasn’t seen the lawsuit.
“Toyota sympathizes with anyone in an accident involving one of our vehicles,” the spokesperson said. “Regarding this lawsuit, Toyota has not yet been served and therefore cannot comment on the allegations.”
The lawsuit alleges that the Corolla had a defect that led to the collapse of the “occupant survival space” after Wierson’s vehicle struck it.
“The Toyota Defendants designed and manufactured the Toyota Corolla knowing that the vehicle was not tested nor was it designed for rear impacts other than for fuel system leakage,” the lawsuit says. “The subject vehicle was not designed to provide ride-down forces and performance protection to occupants in rear end impacts. In addition, the Toyota Defendants were aware that if the vehicle were involved in a rear impact that it was not sufficiently strong to maintain adequate survival space of the subject vehicle.”