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The Honolulu Advertiser
Updated at 10:39 a.m., Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Suit filed in traffic death of 8-year-old on Maui

By LILA FUJIMOTO, Staff Writer
The Maui News

WAILUKU - More than a year after an 8-year-old boy was killed in a traffic collision on Honoapiilani Highway, his parents have filed a lawsuit alleging others were negligent in his death, The Maui News reported today.

The lawsuit, filed Friday in 2nd Circuit Court, was brought by Texas resident Susan Moulton - who was injured in the June 3, 2007, crash that killed her son, Will Smith - and by the boy's father, Kenneth Smith Jr., also of Texas.

Will Smith was a front-seat passenger in a rented Chevrolet Malibu that was driven by his mother and heading toward Maalaea that morning. Near Ukumehame Wayside Park, a 2003 Mazda sedan heading in the opposite direction went out of control before veering into the oncoming lane to collide with the Malibu, police said.

The Mazda was cut in half in the crash. Will Smith, who was critically injured, was rushed by ambulance to Maui Memorial Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead later that day.

The lawsuit alleges negligence by Brittney Mooney, who was identified as the driver of the Mazda; as well as General Motors Corp., which manufactures the Chevrolet Malibu; Alamo Rent A Car, which rented the vehicle to Moulton; and the state, which owns the highway where the collision occurred.

Mooney, 24, who was a Lahaina resident at the time of the crash, couldn't be reached for comment Monday. The court filing didn't show whether Mooney and the other defendants had been served notice of the lawsuit.

At the time of the crash, police reported they were investigating reports by other drivers that Mooney had been driving recklessly along the pali before the crash.

Lt. Bobby Hill, commander of the police Traffic Section, said Monday that the crash is still under investigation. Once a traffic investigation report is completed, it will be sent to the prosecutor's office for review and possible charges, he said.

The lawsuit alleges that the state was negligent, in part because it "failed to provide a safe road, roadway and shoulders."

State Department of Transportation spokeswoman Tammy Mori said Monday that the agency wouldn't be able to comment on a pending lawsuit.

In naming General Motors and Alamo Rent A Car as defendants, the lawsuit said both companies "placed a defective product into the stream of commerce."

"The Chevrolet Malibu was dangerous to its users, and in particular to young children who were not properly protected by the seat belts provided," according to the lawsuit. "The Chevrolet Malibu was defectively designed in that its seat belt caused the harm sustained by William Smith, enhanced the injuries to William Smith, and brought about his death."

After performing an autopsy on the child, Maui County coroner's physician Dr. Anthony Manoukian said Will Smith was wearing a seat belt that was "not a good fit" for the 4-foot-1-inch, 60-pound boy. The seat belt fit around the lower part of the boy's chest, corresponding with internal injuries he suffered, Manoukian reported.

According to the lawsuit, neither General Motors nor Alamo warned about "the dangers that can result from use of the seat belts provided by a child of William Smith's size."

The lawsuit asks for an unspecified amount in damages.

Honolulu attorneys Roy Chang and Harvey Demetrakopoulos filed the lawsuit.

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at lfujimoto@mauinews.com.