Parents seeking $4 million in damages; Say driver was drunk, negligent in crash that killed their son


The parents of a Sykesville man, who with his fiancee was killed in a 1996 drunken-driving crash, are seeking $4 million in damages from the jailed driver, court records show.

In a suit filed in Carroll Circuit Court, Michael and Kathleen Thompson allege Brian W. Ridings was negligent and reckless as well as drunk when he drove his 1989 Ford Probe into a tree off Bloom Road near Muller Road near Winfield on Oct. 6, 1996.

The couple's son, Andrew Michael Thompson, 22, and his girlfriend, Kimberly Ann Reals, 19, passengers in the vehicle, died in the crash.

Complaints for damages must be filed within three years.

A check of court records yesterday showed Reals' family has not filed against Ridings for civil damages.

Ridings, 25, who lived in the 1700 block of Bloom Road in Taylorsville, pleaded guilty in June 1997 to driving while intoxicated and to two counts of auto manslaughter. He is serving consecutive two-year sentences at the Carroll County Detention Center.

Ridings was seriously injured in the crash.

Richard Bennett, a Baltimore attorney who represented Ridings in the criminal case, said at the sentencing in August 1997 that his client had no memory of the accident and was suffering from severe depression and brain damage.

Ridings' blood-alcohol content after the crash at 3: 14 a.m. was 0.16, well above the legal limit, prosecutor David P. Daggett said then.

In their lawsuit, the Thompsons contend that Ridings' "negligence was the proximate cause" of the crash. They also alleged their son was pronounced dead at the scene as a result of the injuries suffered in the crash.

The Thompsons said they have suffered financial, mental and emotional loss because of their son's death and are seeking $3 million in compensatory damages based on Ridings' alleged negligence.

In addition, Michael Thompson, a personal representative for his son's estate, is seeking $1 million in compensatory damages on behalf of his son who, had he lived, could have sought damages from Ridings.

The lawsuit also asks for a jury trial, leaving open any amounts in punitive damages that might be determined.

Ridings, who leaves the jail daily on work release, was not available for comment, officials said.

In structuring Ridings' sentence, Circuit Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. kept Ridings out of the state prison system, imposing consecutive 10-year sentences and suspending all but two years on each term so they could be served at the county jail in Westminster.

Burns also imposed a concurrent one-year sentence on the DWI charge and placed Ridings on three years' probation, once he is released. He must also reimburse the Reals for $3,500 in funeral expenses.

In lieu of a fine, Burns ordered Ridings to contribute $2,000 to the State's Attorney's Substance Abuse Fund and left open the number of community service hours he will impose on Ridings, saying he hoped to have the defendant speak to students about the perils of drinking and driving.

Pub Date: 10/05/99

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