Restraining order requested to preserve evidence in fatal Jeep fire

David Yates Oct. 16, 2007, 11:34am

2007 Jeep Liberty

Only weeks ago, Martha Hafford lost her son when the Jeep Liberty she leased from Enterprise burst into flames.

To prevent Enterprise Leasing Co. and the dealership storing the Jeep, Classic Chevrolet, from tampering with the vehicle, Hafford's attorney filed an application for a temporary restraining order and a motion for entry onto property for inspection. The documents were filed Oct. 11 in the Jefferson County District Court by Provost Umphrey attorney James Payne.

According to the application, "On Sept. 28, 2007, a vehicle driven by plaintiff Martha Hafford burst into flames without warning as she traveled with her minor sons…on Farm Road 1416, 2.5 miles south of Trout Creek, Texas."

One of the young boys died in the ensuing fire. His mother and brother escaped with severe injuries, the application said.

Enterprise Leasing Company leased the vehicle and the 2007 red Jeep Liberty is being housed at Classic Chevrolet, located at 3855 Eastex Freeway, Beaumont. Classic Chevrolet is owned by Roane Ruddy Beaumont Motor Co.

"Plaintiffs request that this honorable court restrain the defendants from removing and/or tampering with any part or piece of the subject vehicle," the suit said. "Plaintiffs further request that defendants…not be allowed to destroy, alter, tamper with, change, or move any part or piece of the subject vehicle and/or disturb in anyway the scene of the accident from this point forward…until plaintiffs have had an opportunity to inspect, video and photograph the scene of the accident and the subject vehicle with their experts."

Payne says that if the temporary restraining order is not issued that the plaintiffs will suffer irreparable harm and will have no other adequate remedy at law.

"Plaintiffs will be deprived of the opportunity to present an essential element of proof in an action to be brought against this prospective defendant and other potential defendants," the suit said.

The plaintiffs and their lawyer are requesting that the order be issued ex parte, or without notice to the defendants, because there is not enough time to give notice, hold a hearing and issue a restraining order before the irreparable injury, loss or damage occurs.

"Specifically, the subject vehicle must be preserved for a proper examination of the subject vehicle by plaintiffs' experts as soon as possible," the suit states.

Payne writes that is is "probable that plaintiffs will recover from defendants after trial on the merits because of the negligence and gross negligence they have committed, as well as the defective vehicle in question."

Judge Bob Wortham, 58th Judicial District, will preside over the case.

Case No. A180-503

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