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Family sues teen driver, parents in crash that killed Hernando sheriff's Capt. Scott Bierwiler

BROOKSVILLE — The family of sheriff's Capt. Scott Bierwiler is seeking financial damages from the teenage driver charged with his death and from his parents.

The wrongful-death lawsuit filed Friday came less than six months after the February wreck on Powell Road that killed the high-ranking Hernando County deputy who aspired to become sheriff.

Andrew Frank Morris, then 16, collided head-on with Bierwiler about 5 a.m. Feb. 19 along the empty two-lane road south of Brooksville. Bierwiler, who was driving toward the Sheriff's Office before his shift started, died instantly. Morris was seriously injured.

The eight-page lawsuit, filed on behalf of Bierwiler's wife, Angie, and his three children, seeks damages in excess of $15,000.

It alleges five counts of negligence against Morris and his parents, George and Andrea Lyle of Weeki Wachee, who owned the sport utility vehicle Morris was driving.

The claim against the parents is tenuous because it contradicts what prosecutors alleged in a criminal indictment in July.

The lawsuit states the Lyles knew and consented to Morris operating the SUV — language needed for an insurance claim against them for culpable negligence.

But last month, Assistant State Attorney Pete Magrino charged Morris with third-degree murder and grand theft because his parents reported the vehicle stolen at the time of the wreck. The felony stolen vehicle element allowed the prosecutor to elevate the primary charge to murder, instead of a more typical charge of vehicular homicide.

The contradiction puts the Bierwiler family's claims more in line with Morris' criminal defense attorney, Robert Whittel.

"They are claiming he was a permissible driver," Whittel said in an interview Tuesday, after the lawsuit was released. "I believe they knew what we know — that he truly didn't steal the car."

The Bierwilers' attorney, Keith Taylor of Lecanto, did not return a message seeking comment.

John Frank can be reached at jfrank@sptimes.com or (352) 754-6114.

Family sues teen driver, parents in crash that killed Hernando sheriff's Capt. Scott Bierwiler 08/18/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 18, 2009 6:54pm]
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