Haylee Burks’ parents file wrongful death suits

Published 4:15 pm Thursday, April 12, 2012

Both parents of an 8-year-old Jemison Elementary School student struck by a vehicle and killed have filed wrongful death lawsuits against Danny Ray Smith.

The complaints were both filed on April 4, less than a week after Haylee Burks was struck near Kentuck Park in Northport as she walked with her mother and sister to their vehicle following the Tuscaloosa Regional Air Show on March 31.

Micah Burks’ complaint was filed at 10:02 a.m. in Tuscaloosa Circuit Court and Tanya Michelle Burks’ complaint was filed at 2:10 p.m., but a judge will decide which party has the right to bring the case to court.

Tanya Burks’ complaint says she was Haylee’s primary custodial parent.

Both complaints are similar, including the charge that Smith was acting in a business capacity leading up to the incident, thus making his two businesses parties in the case.

“This is an issue that will be determined during discovery, but we do know that Mr. Smith had been entertaining business clientele at his business immediately prior to the accident,” said Apsilah Owens Millsaps, who is representing Tanya Burks.

Smith owns Dixie Air Service in Northport and Danny Smith Construction Company in Tuscaloosa, according to court documents. Dixie Air Service is about 2 miles from the scene of the incident.

Tanya Burks’ complaint said that Haylee’s 3-year-old sister was also injured by the vehicle, and that Tanya Burks herself suffered four fractured vertebrae and cuts on her leg and arm, among other injuries.

“…Her injuries are temporarily totally disabling, she has suffered and will suffer pain and mental anguish, she has incurred and will continue to incur medical expenses for her care and treatment and the care and treatment of her minor daughter [and] she will lose income,” the complaint reads.

Both complaints request a trial by jury, and compensatory and punitive damages determined by the jury.

Attorneys representing Micah Burks couldn’t be reached Thursday.

Robert F. Prince, who is representing Smith, said his client intends to enter a plea of “not guilty” in both the civil and criminal cases.

“I can say, in behalf of Danny Smith and his entire family, how heartbroken they are that this happened,” Prince said. “Moreover, their prayers go out for the Burks family.”

Following the incident, Smith, 64, was arrested by Northport P.D. and charged with vehicular homicide, leaving the scene of an accident and two counts of first-degree assault. He was originally charged with DUI, which led to the vehicular homicide charges.