Civil suit filed in fatal Spur wreck

Passenger in vehicle sues Swaggerty, Madden estate
Nov. 15, 2012 @ 06:13 PM

A passenger injured in last month’s fatal two-car wreck on the Spur has sued both drivers.

Olivia “Haven” McDowell was one of two passengers riding in Nicholas Swaggerty’s car when Swaggerty collided with a vehicle driven by Joseph Madden, 34, of Pittman Center on Oct. 13.

Madden died in the wreck; the two passengers in Swaggerty’s car were airlifted to The University of Tennessee Medical Center.

McDowell’s identity had not been released by the National Park Service, which is responsible for the investigation into the accident. Park officials said they don’t identify minors who are involved in accidents, and have not disclosed the identity of the second passenger.

McDowell’s mother, Keeli “Suzanne” Ownby, is acting as “next friend” and also as a plaintiff in the complaint, which was filed in the Sevier County Circuit Court. Attorney Jim Gass is representing the family.

The lawsuit does not identify the second passenger, who park officials have said was also a minor.

Park officials have said it will be some time before they release any report on their investigation into the wreck, and have not announced a timeline for when that will take place. They said Tuesday the investigation has not been completed.

The complaint, however, alleges Swaggerty was “driving in excess of the posted speed limit while traveling north on a historically dangerous stretch of road known as the Spur.”

The wreck happened at the entrance to Westgate Resort, the same intersection where a man engaged in a drag race collided with a car full of tourists in 2005.

In last month’s wreck, the complaint alleges Madden was trying to pull out from the resort and crossed in front of Swaggerty, causing Swaggerty to strike his car in the side.

The impact threw Madden from the car, killing him. McDowell suffered life-threatening injuries herself, according to the complaint, and some of them could affect her for the rest of her life.

The complaint alleges Swaggerty was speeding, failed to exercise due care and was driving recklessly.

No criminal charges have been filed in relation to the wreck.

It also alleges Madden was driving recklessly, failing to comply with state regulations for entering a highway and failing to exercise due care.

McDowell’s family is suing Swaggerty’s parents, Douglas and Helen Swaggerty, based on the claim that Nicholas was driving the car with their permission, and is suing Madden’s estate. They are seeking $1.5 million from the Swaggerty family along with additional damages, and suing the Madden estate “to the extent said defendant’s actions are the proximate cause of said damages as a result of comparative fault.”