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Inmate with DUI past was driving van that killed Chicago woman

A Cook County couple pulled up Chicago roots more than a dozen years ago and replanted them out of state. The husband and wife moved in 2000, hoping to find a peaceful place to raise three children. By 2013, the couple was also helping to bring up four grandchildren.

The wife, mother and grandmother juggled multiple responsibilities including an out-of-the-home job. The 47-year-old woman was returning from work in late June when the Nissan Quest she was driving was struck by a prison transport van driven by an inmate. The woman died from crash injuries.

The 35-year-old van driver had been placed on a work detail that included transporting other prisoners to and from job sites. Corrections officials said Nebraska prisoners have performed the driving job regularly for decades. Media reports noted the prisoner's criminal past included convictions for reckless driving and two DUIs.

A witness who was in traffic with the van said he pulled off the road to avoid the reckless driver. The man claimed the prison van was operated like the driver "was drunk."

Public outcry after the fatal accident occurred caused prison officials to shut down the prisoner driving program, subject to a "review." No criminal charges were filed.

The victim's family plans to file a wrongful death claim that names the inmate and the state corrections' department. The family's attorney said prison policies were negligent by permitting someone with a "horrible" history of traffic offenses to drive.

The victim's son said his family wants to prevent future fatalities by forcing the prison to abandon the prisoner driver program.

Third parties -- inclusive of individuals, businesses and even government agencies -- may be held accountable in civil courts when something they did or did not do result in harm. The negligent action does not have to be direct for a defendant to be liable for damages that caused victims' injuries or deaths.

Source:, "Mitchell: Chicago woman's death raises questions about Nebraska prison program" Mary Mitchell, Jul. 03, 2013

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