The family of Harry Dunn, the 19-year-old motorcyclist killed by a car driven on the wrong side of an English roadway by the wife of a U.S. official, filed a U.S. federal lawsuit against the driver, Anne Sacoolas, on Wednesday.
The lawsuit, which claims wrongful death and seeks financial damages, represents a significant escalation in the year-long campaign by Dunn’s parents to hold Sacoolas accountable.
The case has been a source of friction between British and American officials. Sacoolas left Britain shortly after the Aug. 27, 2019, accident, with the U.S. government asserting that she had diplomatic immunity.
She returned to her home in Northern Virginia. But in December, British police charged her with causing death by dangerous driving.
A British request for extradition was rejected by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab expressed “disappointment.” In a meeting with Pompeo in July, Prime Minister Boris Johnson “reiterated the need for justice to be done for Harry Dunn and his family,” according to a spokesman for 10 Downing Street.
The driver’s husband, Jonathan Sacoolas, is named as a co-defendant in the U.S. civil suit, as the Dunn family lawyers say the vehicle driven in the accident, a Volvo SUV, was owned by him.
Jonathan Sacoolas, who had diplomatic status in Britain, was working for the U.S. government at a Royal Air Force base in Croughton, which is used by American intelligence agencies.
In the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Virginia, the lawyers for Dunn’s parents assert that Sacoolas did not call an ambulance or police after the head-on collision, although she had a cellphone with her. A passerby called the emergency service.
The force of the collision left “blood and clothing embedded in the front windshield,” the lawsuit states. “She left Harry to suffer as he lay face down on the side of the road, afraid of dying, fully conscious with multiple broken bones, including open fractures on both legs and both arms, and internal injuries.”
Sacoolas remained at the scene. The ambulance took 43 minutes to appear, according to police, because call handlers mischaracterized the extent of Dunn’s injuries. He died soon after reaching a hospital in nearby Oxford.
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Theodore Leopold, a lawyer representing the Dunn family, said the lawsuit must proceed in Virginia because that is where Sacoolas now resides. He said it was possible to bring witnesses from England to Virginia to testify — or to offer their testimony via remote video links or recorded depositions.
As for the amount of money sought by the Dunn family, Leopold said, “that will be up to the jury.” Asked whether the case could settle, Leopold said, “we’re always ready to listen in good faith.”
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