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Parents of Central High student killed in 2013 crash file lawsuits

The parents of a 17-year-old Central High School student killed in a 2013 car crash have filed two lawsuits against the teenage driver of the other car and her father.

Nashandra Harriet Finney was riding to school with her father just before 7 a.m. Jan. 10, 2013, when his 1992 Mazda Protege and a Toyota 4-Runner collided on Forsyth Road near Tucker Road.

Finney died soon after the crash.

The lawsuits, filed by Harold and Beverlyn Finney, name Kathryn Claire Patton and her father, James Burgess Patton, as defendants.

The suits were filed Friday in Bibb County State Court, a day before the two-year anniversary of the crash.

Both lawsuits -- one alleging wrongful death and a second seeking damages for Finney’s father’s injuries -- contend that then-17-year-old Claire Patton, the driver of the 4-Runner, was negligent in failing to yield the right of way, to keep a “proper lookout” and to obey state driving laws.

Harold Finney suffered fractured ribs and his legs were crushed. His medical bills and other expenses have totaled more than $375,000, according to the lawsuit.

The personal injury suit also seeks compensation for future damages arising from his pain and suffering.

The suits allege that James “Jimmy” Patton, a former Macon City councilman, is liable because he allowed his daughter to drive the 4-Runner, which he owned or controlled.

Attempts to contact the Pattons’ lawyer were unsuccessful Monday.

Prosecutors chose not to file criminal charges after reviewing evidence from the crash.

In a 2014 statement, Bibb County Solicitor Rebecca Grist said there was “insufficient evidence to prove a criminal offense beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Georgia State Patrol crash investigation reports released last year included conflicting statements from three people who saw the crash. Troopers were unable to determine which driver had a green light.

Attorneys for the Finneys and Pattons each have said their client had the right of way.

An initial crash report noted that Claire Patton had failed to yield the right of way.

The investigation estimated that Finney, who had been driving south on Forsyth Road toward downtown Macon, was traveling 56 mph in a 45 mph zone.

Claire Patton, who told authorities she was taking her brother to a Bible study off Price Road, was going about 20 mph.

Patton told troopers she waited for the green turn arrow before entering the intersection.

She and her brother were treated for minor injuries.

Zack Dozier, the lawyer representing the Finneys, said Harold Finney is still being treated for his injuries and likely will need more surgery.

Because of the two-year statute of limitations on wrongful death and personal injury cases, the claims were filed before the deadline, he said.

“Mr. and Mrs. Finney are still grieving over the death of their daughter and they always will,” Dozier said.

Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.

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