A settlement has been reached in a wrongful death lawsuit against the owner of a Jeep Wrangler whose vehicle being controlled by a technician in the service center of a Rochester Hills dealership struck and killed another mechanic, the attorney for the family of the deceased confirmed Friday.
Terms of the agreement in the civil case aren’t being disclosed, said David Femminineo, the lawyer for the estate of Jeffrey Hawkins, a Richmond man who died at the age of 42 in March 2020.
Femminineo declined to discuss the case further. A judge had issued a gag order on the case last month, preventing it from being discussed publicly.
The lawsuit was filed in March 2021 after a Shelby Township man on March 13, 2020, took his manual-transmission 2019 Jeep Wrangler to the Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram dealership in Rochester Hills. While working on the vehicle in the service center, mechanic Daniel Thompson lifted his foot off the clutch, according to the suit. The vehicle lurched forward and hit Hawkins, who died within an hour from injuries.
Femminineo last month told Automotive News, which first reported about the settlement, that the Jeep owner was a defendant for negligence instead of the dealership because Michigan law prevents employees from suing employers for injuries that occur at the workplace. A March order requires the dealership to compensate the vehicle owner if he is found liable for negligence.
Thompson was also a defendant in the lawsuit. Femminineo told Automotive News that Thompson was 19, didn’t have a driver’s license and didn’t know how to drive a stick shift.
A message was left on Friday afternoon with the dealership. Attempts to reach the Jeep owner on Friday were unsuccessful.
The case had been set to go to trial last week. Its docket remains open, though there is a hearing scheduled at the end of the month. Femminineo expects the case to be dismissed later this month.
Staff Writer Mike Martindale contributed.