Blame still disputed in ATV death

by John O'Brien |
Apr. 19, 2006, 8:42am

CHARLESTON - Who's to blame for the death of a 13-year-old Logan boy still is being disputed as the defendants in the mother's civil lawsuit recently responded to her allegations.

John Cody Conley died in April 2005 while riding his four-wheeler through a plot of land in Logan County. A cable had been placed, allegedly for the purpose of deterring those who used the area to ride their four-wheelers.

The cable struck Conley's neck, killing him. His mother Tammy Conley filed the suit Jan. 27 in Kanawha Circuit Court against the current owner of the land, Jerry Stollings, as well as two previous owners she believes may have placed the cable in the area.
She also lists Cabot Oil and Gas Corporation as a defendant because she believes Cabot had an agreement with one or more of the defendants to use and control the property for their own benefit.
The property was owned by the West Virginia Division of Transportation, Division of Highways, until Nov. 9, 1999, when Joseph Richards, Steven R. Richards and Cynthia Richards became owners. On Feb. 17, 2005, Jerry Stollings became the owner.

In Cabot's response, filed March 9, the company claims the accident "was caused by a third party over whom (Cabot) exercised no control and for whom control was not the responsibility of."

Cabot also claims the John Conley was partly at fault for riding his four-wheeler through the area.

"Cabot Oil and Gas Company asserts the affirmative defense of comparative and/or contributory negligence (or fault), and states that the degree of fault and/or negligence of the decedent John Cody Conley bars this action in its entirety, or, alternatively, shall decrease the portion of recovery of the plaintiff, if any, in accordance with the attribution of comparative fault."

The Department of Highways filed a Motion to Dismiss the charges, saying that the department was not given proper warning of the lawsuit's filing.

The Motion to Dismiss states that a plaintiff must give 30 days notice prior to the institution of an action against a government agency, and that Tammy Conley did not.

It also says the Department of Highways can not be held liable for the acts of negligence pursuant to the Public Duty Doctrine.

The Richards denied most of the allegations in Conley's complaint, as did Stollings.

In Stollings' response, he "denies ownership of the property and therefore denies that he would have any right, obigation or duty to replace the cable, which is not on his property."

He also denied originally placing the cable.

Judge Jennifer Bailey Walker is handling the case.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number: 06-C-148

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