Logan Brown's Estate Files Wrongful Death Suit

With days left to file before the legal window closes, the estate of Logan Brown, the Evansville teen killed by a drunk driver in March 2015, has filed a wrongful death suit. The lawsuit names a number of defendants, many of whom helped organize and host a birthday party that Gann attended in the hours before the crash. The lawsuit also names Burdette Park, which failed to enforce its own lease agreement requiring liability insurance coverage.

On March 14th, 2015, Michael Gann had a blood alcohol content of more than four times the legal limit when he went the wrong way on University Parkway before slamming into a car driven by Kurt Osborne. Logan Brown, who was riding in the front passenger seat, was pronounced dead shortly after the accident. Osborne and another passenger, Hannah Miller, who were both 16 at the time of the crash, were seriously injured.

Gann also plowed into the back of another vehicle at a gas station prior to the fatal crash, according to surveillance video.

Prior to the fatal crash, Gann had attended a birthday party for a co-worker at Burdette Park, according to court records.

Last week, Charles Brown, the father and personal representative of Logan Brown's estate, filed a wrongful death action in Vanderburgh Superior Court. The lawsuit seeks compensatory damages. Charles Brown had to incur medical and funeral expenses; suffered great pain and emotional trauma; and suffered the loss of his son's love and services, according to the lawsuit.
The civil action names a number of people and entities: Jennifer Owens, the woman who signed the lease with Burdette Park; Jeffrey Osborne, the father of Kurt Osborne; Sheridan Wheeler Jr., Gann's work supervisor; Brake Supply Co., Gann's employer; and the County Commission, which is comprised of Cheryl Musgrave, Ben Shoulders and Bruce Ungetheim. Gann was not named in the lawsuit because he previously settled out of course in a separate case, attorneys said.

Brown's estate is represented by veteran attorney Mark Phillips.

"[The civil lawsuit is] a remedy the Brown family has and its our intention to move forward and try to learn what really happened," Phillips said.

According to court records, Gann attended the birthday party of one of his co-workers on March 14th, 2015. Court records state Gann arrived at the party with a beer or two, which he admitted to consuming there. After being encouraged by others, including his work supervisor, Sheridan Wheeler, Gann voluntarily took part in a drinking game during which he consumed six to eight shots of 100 proof Fireball whiskey over the course of three-and-a-half minutes, according to court records. The alcohol was provided by Wheeler, the lawsuit alleges.

Prior to leaving the party, Gann was observed vomiting, according to court records.

According to the wrongful death suit, Brake Supply Co. offered advice to attendees and potential witnesses not to discuss the event with anyone outside the business. This action interfered or obstructed the criminal investigation, Phillips argued.

"The whole objective here is to find out as accurately as we can what happened, who was involved, and if there were duties that were breached that should not have been," Phillips said. "It's an attempt in a very controlled, civilized fashion to find answers. We believe if those answers come back the way we think they will, there is liability for which the Brown family has redress."

The lawsuit names Burdette Park, which failed to enforce its own lease agreement with Jennifer Owens, Phillips argued. According to the lawsuit, Owens leased the Club House Shelter as well as four chalets. As part of the lease agreements, Owens had to carry comprehensive liability insurance coverage as well as hire a uniformed law enforcement officer in the event that the party featured the consumption of alcohol, the lawsuit states.

However, neither one of those things happened, the lawsuit states.

Burdette Park management failed to honor the terms of their own lease agreement, which requires the insurance policy to be provided within three days of the event, the lawsuit alleges. If that insurance policy is not provided, the event should be terminated, according to the lease.

"It's hard to say and play the 'what if' game and the 'could be' game, but if those things had been dealt properly, you'd like to think the tragedy that occurred would not have," Phillips said. "I don't think it's a matter of sending a message. I'm not a big fan of filing suit to prove a point or send a signal. I think it's very simple: if you have an action that has merit, our only method of compensation and redress in these kinds of cases is to file a wrongful death action. I will never believe in filing suit as a punitive measure. You don't file suit to ruin somebody or to send a message. There's no place for that."

When reached for comment, Owens flat out denied having any involvement in Brown's death and Gann's intoxication. Owens also said she had no involvement in supplying Gann the alcohol.

"I couldn't have contributed to [Gann] driving. I did not know the man that was driving and I did not know the man (Logan Brown) that was killed."

The lawsuit also names Jeff Osborne, the father of Kurt Osborne, the teenager driving the car that Logan Brown was riding in. The lawsuit alleges that Kurt Osborne, who was 16 at the time, had a probationary license and was violating certain restrictions of the probationary license at the time of the accident. Jeff Osborne negligently entrusted his son to operate the vehicle in violation of the restrictions, the lawsuit claims.

Phillips said the Osbornes were named in the lawsuit because of legal and procedural reasons.

"It's not a matter of retribution. It's not a matter of bad faith. It's not a matter of 'let's do something that's viewed negatively,'" Phillips said. "If there are five defendants and you don't name the real parties of interest -- the five defendants -- you run the risk of eliminating the ability to recover from their carrier. If it were possible to pursue this without naming them, we would have certainly given that consideration."

Since their son's death, the Brown family has spearheaded and founded Logan's Promise, a non-profit organization whose mission is to educate and hopefully eliminate drunk driving.

"I don't think this (lawsuit) diminishes what the Browns are attempted to do," Phillips said. "I wish there was a system to compensate people without having to litigate. Unfortunately, in our system there isn't. I'm hopeful that people will cooperate and we'll be able to get to the bottom of this."

No other defendant listed in the lawsuit responded to Eyewitness News' requests for comment.
 


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