LIMA — A woman who crashed her car into a Rally in the Square crowd is trying to limit her liability by suing the people she hit.
Linda Booth and her insurance company, 21st Century Casualty Co. of California, filed the lawsuit this week in Allen County Common Pleas Court. Booth’s insurance policy limits her to $25,000 in liability per accident, the lawsuit said, and she has limited means to pay for anything out of her pocket.
Booth and her insurance company have named 41 people who could file claims.
The incident injured 27 during a June 15 rally as Booth was pulling into a downtown Lima parking space. After an investigation, Lima Police Chief Kevin Martin figured Booth accidentally hit the accelerator instead of the brake. She was issued a citation for reasonable control.
Lima attorney J. Alan Smith, who handles legal work for insurance companies but is not part of this case, said the lawsuit is a way to line up all the people who could possibly file a lawsuit and limit the amount of money the insurance company must pay out.
“What they are saying is, 'Here’s all the money we will have to pay over the insurance policy, and you people decide how to split it up,'” Smith said.
The maneuver does not mean Booth is off the hook for more than her policy allows. She could be sued for higher amounts but may not be able to pay, Smith said.
Booth said in the lawsuit she has limited personal means to pay claims. Smith said that often is the case and Booth probably will have to file bankruptcy to discharge any judgments against her stemming from the accident.
From a strategic legal standpoint, this type of lawsuit allows the insurance company to line up defendants instead of answering various lawsuits over the two-year period from the date of the accident, Smith said.
The big expense in such claims is medical bills. One person easily can have medical bills totaling more than $25,000, Smith said.
Booth told The Lima News the crash was pure accident. She thought she had placed the car in park, she said.
“All of a sudden, swoosh,” Booth said. “I was hauling into the crowd. It was as much as a surprise to me as the people that I injured.”
Police conducted a toxicology test on Booth, and there was no alcohol or drugs in her system.
“There is no indication, whatsoever, her actions were intentional,” Martin said when the investigation was completed.
Booth was involved in another accident Jan. 30. She allegedly ran into a car and failed to stop to report the crash. She is charged with failure to stop after an accident and improper backing or starting of a car, both misdemeanors.
Booth has pleaded not guilty to the charges and has a pretrial scheduled for March 15.
The crash was minor and happened on North Main Street. Booth backed into another car then drove away. The driver of the other car reported Booth’s plate number to police, according to a police report.