Mother of teen killed in Monroe crash while live on Facebook files suit
The mother of a Scranton teen killed when a tractor-trailer rammed the rear of her car as she and a passenger broadcast live on Facebook filed a lawsuit against the truck driver and his employer.
Rita Hughes, mother of Brooke Hughes, says her daughter and her daughter’s friend, Chaniya Morrison-Toomey, suffered agonizing deaths when their vehicle burst into flames after a fully loaded truck driven by Michael J. Parks of Tobyhanna struck them Dec. 6, 2016.
The Facebook video also captured the moments before the crash as Hughes, 18, and Morrison-Toomey, 19, of Dunmore, traveled on Interstate 380 in Coolbaugh Township in Monroe County.
According to the suit, the girls had just changed a flat tire on Hughes’ 2005 Suzuki Forenza and were traveling slowly on a “doughnut” tire with hazard lights flashing. The suit says the area of the crash is a straightaway with adequate sight distances. Pr ior to the crash, multiple other drivers observed the car and maneuvered around it without any difficultly.
The state police report and Facebook video identify Hughes as the driver, but the lawsuit, filed by Kingston attorney Kevin Quinn, says she was the passenger.
Contacted Monday, Quinn said the Monroe County coroner’s office concluded Hughes was the passenger based on DNA testing of the bodies, which were burned beyond recognition. Maurice Moreno, chief deputy coroner for Monroe County, said a witness who helped the teens change the flat tire also identified Morrison-Toomey as the driver.
The lawsuit does not mention the girls were streaming on Facebook. Quinn said that information will come out later as the case proceeds.
“I don’t think it’s an issue. Brooke was the passenger,” Quinn said.
The lawsuit, filed in Lackawanna County Court, alleges Parks was distracted and failed to keep an adequate lookout and that his employer, Pocono Motor Freight Inc., of Tobyhanna, failed to ensure he was trained properly to operate the truck. Attempts to reach company officials were unsuccessful.
The suit seeks damages on several counts, including negligence and wrongful death. Morrison-Toomey’s parents, Danielle Toomey and Jamal Morrison, are not co-plaintiffs in the case. Attempts to reach them were unsuccessful.