Judge's daughter sues over deadly wreck

December 18, 2008 3:13:11 PM PST
The daughter of a state district judge, who served jail time for a deadly drunk driving accident, is preparing for another battle in court. Elizabeth Shelton is suing the truck driver she ran into during the crash. She's also suing several insurance companies.[SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

The case made news because the defendant is the daughter of a Houston judge. Questions were raised at the time whether she was getting preferential treatment on bond, and in the courtroom. Ultimately a jury found Shelton guilty of intoxication manslaughter in the death of her boyfriend. In her civil lawsuit, Elizabeth Shelton sounds like the wronged party, but it may come down to an insurance dispute.

Twenty-six months ago, Elizabeth Shelton was driving her mother's SUV with her boyfriend Matt McNiece in the passenger's seat when she rear ended a box truck. McNeice was killed. Shelton was found to be several times over the legal alcohol limit. She was charged with intoxication manslaughter, and a jury agreed.

Shelton served four months in jail, was put on eight years probation. Now, two years later, she is suing the driver of the truck she claims caused the accident. The insurance on the truck he was driving had apparently lapsed. Some might wonder at the logic.

KTRK Legal Analyst Joel Androphy posed the question, "You would say this young lady was drunk at the time. Why is she entitled to recover against somebody who wasn't drunk at the time?"

Legal questions, though, rarely have a simple answer. Androphy says the fact four insurance companies are listed as defendants says a lot. Shelton was driving her mother's SUV, and her mother had uninsured motorist protection.

"If you can prove that someone else was at fault, and they don't have enough coverage, then your insurance coverage would cover it," Androphy explained.

Shelton is asking for medical care and expenses, payment for pain and suffering, mental anguish, $20,000 in property damage to the car, plus attorney's fees.

While it may be a way of forcing an insurance company to cover the accident, Androphy says winning such a case with a conviction on one's record is "a pretty significant uphill battle."

Shelton's mother and the parents of the boyfriend who was killed are also listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Neither the attorney for the plaintiffs nor for the truck driver returned our calls for comment.

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