Harry Dunn, 19, died in a motorbike crash with charged wife of US diplomat, Anne Sacoolas (Pictures: PA)
The family of Harry Dunn have been given the go-ahead to proceed with a civil claim for damages against the teenager’s alleged killer and her husband.
The 19-year-old died in a crash when riding his motorbike near RAF Croughton in Northamptonshire in August 2019. Anne Sacoolas, wife of US diplomat Jonathan, was charged with causing Mr Dunn’s death by dangerous driving.
But Mrs Sacoolas avoided prosecution under British law by claiming diplomatic immunity and an extradition request submitted by the Home Office was rejected by the US State Department in January last year.
Her lawyers claimed she could not face trial as she also worked for a US intelligence agency at the time of Mr Dunn’s death and had fled the UK because of ‘issues of security’.
However, a judge in the Alexandria district court in Virginia has now ruled the Dunn family can proceed with a civil claim, bringing them a step closer to a legal showdown with Mrs Sacoolas 18 months on from the teenager’s death.
A ‘vicarious liability’ claim will be allowed to be brought against the suspect’s husband as well.
The Virginia State law of vicarious liability means Mr Sacoolas could be liable for the teenager’s death by allowing his wife to use the car that killed him.
Harry Dunn’s family have been given the go-ahead to proceed with a civil claim for damages (Picture: PA)
Mrs Sacoolas claimed she could not face trial as she worked for a US intelligence agency at the time of Mr Dunn’s death and had fled the UK because of ‘issues of security’ (Picture: Facebook)
Should there be no settlement in the case, the next legal step would be a ‘deposition’, in which Sacoolas and her husband would be forced to provide their account of events outside of court.
Mr Dunn’s mother Charlotte Charles, father Tim Dunn and twin brother Niall Dunn would have the option to attend the deposition.
The Dunn family’s spokesman Radd Seiger said: ‘Harry’s family are very pleased at the ruling.
‘The Sacoolases and their insurers, the United Services Automobile Association (USAA), have sought to deny Harry’s family justice at absolutely every turn along the way.
‘Common sense has prevailed.’
‘The Dunn family are entitled to pursue their legal rights to the fullest extent possible,’ the family lawyer said (Picture: PA)
‘It is time to get on with delivering justice to this family and to put these petty attempts to deprive them of their rights behind us’ (Picture: PA)
Mr Seiger continued: ‘The Dunn family are entitled to pursue their legal rights to the fullest extent possible, ultimately to be determined by the court at trial.
‘It is time to get on with delivering justice to this family and to put these petty attempts to deprive them of their rights behind us.
‘The USAA have done themselves a huge disservice in their handling of the claims to date.’
In February, Judge Ellis ruled the substantive claim against Mrs Sacoolas can go ahead in the US. He dismissed Mrs Sacoolas’s application against it, citing her ‘refusal’ to return to the UK.
Judge Ellis said last month: ‘While it is commendable that defendant Anne Sacoolas admits that she was negligent and that her negligence caused Harry Dunn’s death, this does not equate acceptance of responsibility.
‘We sympathise deeply with his family,’ said Boris Johnson at PMQs (Picture: Parliament TV)
‘Full acceptance of responsibility entails facing those harmed by her negligence and taking responsibility for her acts where they occurred, in the United Kingdom.’
During a short hearing on Wednesday, the Judge told the parties the case could be settled outside of court if both sides agreed to have those discussions.
Before the hearing, the Prime Minister said the Foreign Secretary had raised the case with the US Secretary of State.
The PM earlier confirmed to the Dunn family’s constituency MP, Andrea Leadsom, that the UK Government continues to raise the case ‘at the highest level’.
Asked at Prime Minister’s Questions if he could try to persuade President Joe Biden to deliver justice for Mr Dunn, Boris Johnson said: ‘She’s completely right to continue to raise the case of Harry Dunn and we sympathise deeply with his family.
‘It’s a case that we continue to raise at the highest level and I know that my Right Honourable friend the Foreign Secretary has only just raised it now with Tony Blinken, the US secretary of state.’
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