The family of a 15-year-old Vernal boy has filed a wrongful death suit against a man who allegedly hit and killed the teen while texting behind the wheel last year.
Evie Lesser, the mother of Thomas “Tommy” LaVelle Clark, is seeking an unspecified amount of damages from the driver, Jeffery Lloyd Bascom.
Meanwhile, Bascom, 28, of Jensen, is charged in 8th District Court with automobile homicide involving the use of a hand-held wireless communication device while driving, a second-degree felony, as well as obstruction of justice, a third-degree felony.
Vernal police have said Clark and a friend were walking on the shoulder of 500 West near 1300 South at about 9 p.m. on Sept. 2 when a Dodge pickup driven by Bascom drifted off the road and hit Clark. Police allege Bascom was texting at the time.
Clark was taken to a hospital and died the next day.
An amendment to Utah’s texting-while-driving law took effect in May, making it illegal to be doing anything on a hand-held wireless communication device except making or receiving a call, or using GPS navigation. Before the change, a driver had to be sending a text at the instant an accident occurred — merely looking at a text or the screen of a cellphone was not illegal.
The amendment is meant to make cases easier to prove, since prosecutors have said the narrow construction of the law made it almost impossible to get convictions.
Uintah County prosecutors have said they believe Bascom’s case is the first time the new statute has been applied in their county.
Bascom has a long history of traffic violations dating back to when he was 16, according to Utah court records. In 2009, he was convicted of driving more than 40 mph over the speed limit.
A preliminary hearing in the criminal case is set for Jan. 23 before Judge Douglas Thomas.