The families of three people killed in a hit-and-run drunk driving accident in Northeast Knoxville are filing civil lawsuits against 22-year-old Curtis Scott Harper.
On May 30, 2012, Chastity Thornell was out of gas and stranded near the Washington turnpike. Nelzon Soto brought her the gasoline at 2 a.m. to get the vehicle started. At this point, an SUV driven by the drunken Curtis Harper rammed into them. Nelzon Soto, Chastity Thornell and her unborn child were killed in the accident.
Curtis Harper did not stop to assist them and fled the scene. He has been charged with three counts of DUI, vehicular homicide and leaving the scene of an accident. In addition to the criminal prosecution by the state, the families of the victims are now filing civil lawsuits against Curtis Harper.
Chastity Thornell's family will be filing suit by the end of this month, after the autopsy report and an investigative report by Knox County DA's office become available. Elbia Hercules, widow of Nelzon Soto, has already filed a $10 million lawsuit. The court papers name Curtis Harper as the defendant, along with two other co-defendants – Harper's parents and the bar that served Harper with the alcoholic drinks during the evening and early-morning before Harper left and caused the accident.
Harper's parents are named because they owned the car, and for allegedly being negligent in letting their son drive their vehicle despite his prior traffic violations. Curtis Harper's record includes a DWI conviction in 2009 and a 2011 drug charge in Knox County that was later dismissed.
The Knoxville bar called The Hill is a co-defendant under dram shop laws that prohibit serving more alcohol to patrons who are already intoxicated. The bar denied the charges and said Harper was not over-served and was not in any way impaired while he was at their establishment.
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