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Judge Rules In Favor Of Johnson Janklow Abdallah Client In Wrongful Death Case

Mar 17, 17

The attorneys at Johnson Janklow Abdallah secured a substantial preliminary victory for the family of a young girl tragically killed in a motor vehicle crash on February 9, 2014.  Vannah Decker, 15, was killed when a vehicle belonging to Deerfield Hutterite Colony in South Dakota in which she was a passenger crashed at a high rate of speed, causing her to be ejected from the vehicle.  The driver of the Colony vehicle was Janos Stahl, an unlicensed driver and member of the Deerfield Colony.  Even though he was unlicensed, Stahl was permitted to drive Colony vehicles and the keys to the GMC Jimmy involved in the crash were always readily accessible to him at his Colony home.  After the crash, Stahl fled the scene and returned home where he failed to tell anyone about the crash or send help for Vannah.  Stahl was arrested for manslaughter and admitted to consuming alcohol before the crash.
United States District Judge Charles Kornmann denied the Deerfield Colony’s motion for summary judgment, holding the Colony had a legal duty to supervise and control its vehicles and that a federal jury should determine the extent of the Colony’s liability for Vannah’s death.  In his decision, Judge Kornmann held that it was foreseeable to the Colony that granting unlicensed boys access to vehicles may cause injury to others.  The Court further noted that the foreseeability of injury increases when the keys are readily accessible and alcohol is readily available to young boys on the Colony.
A trial has been set for May 31 and June 1-2 in United States District Court in Aberdeen.  Attorney Scott Abdallah is handling the case.  At the trial, a jury will be asked to compensate the Decker family for the loss they have suffered as the result of Vannah’s tragic death.

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It is great to work with the attorneys at Johnson, Janklow, and Abdallah. They always provide excellent advice and service that is second to none.

Mike Miller | former NBA player

The lawyers at Johnson, Janklow, and Abdallah are consistently ranked as the top business lawyers in the state. Our business can always count on them to aggressively fight for our rights and provide straight-forward advice on complex issues.

Mark McNeary | Primrose Retirement Communities, LLC

Lawyers from Johnson, Janklow, and Abdallah regularly participate in legal education by judging intramural student skills competitions; helping prepare our nationally competitive litigation skills teams; serving or leading the South Dakota State Bar's Law School Committee; and, from time to time , providing guest lecturers. The Law School is grateful for the generous participation of lawyers like those from Johnson, Janklow, and Abdallah.

Tom Geu | former Dean, USD School of Law