$825,000 settlement made in teen's death

May 25, 1994|By Ed Brandt | Ed Brandt,Sun Staff Writer

An $825,000 settlement has been made to the estate of Kimberly Jo Spacek, a teen-ager killed in November 1991 by a drunken driver in front of her high school.

The driver, Michael B. Dobihal, who was 19 at the time of the accident, is serving a five-year sentence for auto manslaughter, drunken driving and reckless driving.

Ms. Spacek, 15, was a passenger in a pickup truck struck by Dobihal in front of Chesapeake High School on Turkey Point Road in Essex. She died an hour after the accident.

Steven M. Brady, the driver of the pickup, received minor injuries. Dobihal was not hurt.

The settlement, for compensatory damages, was presided over by Judge James Sfekas of Baltimore County Circuit Court.

Maryland Casualty, insurer of the truck driven by Mr. Brady, was liable for most of the settlement even though Mr. Brady did nothing wrong.

Dobihal had only a $25,000 policy; the pickup truck was covered by a $1 million liability policy. Under Maryland law, Maryland Casualty was liable for the difference, the lawyers for both parties said.

As an "outgrowth of the settlement," Donald and Margaret Spacek of Essex, parents of the victim and personal representatives for her estate, have established a scholarship fund in their daughter's name at Chesapeake High, according to Azrael, Gann and Franz, the Towson law firm that represented the Spaceks.

An annual award of $1,000 will be made to an outstanding Chesapeake student who aspires to be a teacher or physician. Their daughter was interested in both professions.

"It's just something we wanted to do in Kim's memory," Mrs. Spacek said.

A $1,000 annual matching grant has been established by Azrael, Gann and Franz.

Attorney Keith Franz, who handled the case, said the law firm is seeking special recognition for students involved in community service, with an emphasis on membership in the Chesapeake High chapter of Students Against Drunk Driving.

The first scholarships will be awarded at 7 p.m. June 2 at an assembly at Chesapeake.

"We wanted to send a message to the community about the seriousness of this problem and to encourage people to find solutions," Mr. Franz said.

The law firm also made a $25,000 endowment to the Northern Maryland chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving in memory of Ms. Spacek.

Dobihal was convicted in March 1992. Judge Thomas Bollinger sentenced him to five years in prison with all but 18 months suspended. The rest of the sentence was to be served on probation. The decision outraged the Spacek family.

After four months, Dobihal, of Essex, was allowed to leave the Detention Center on work release and was given weekend passes.

In April 1993, Dobihal returned from work release and got into a fight with another inmate. Tests showed he had a blood alcohol content of 0.20, twice the legal limit for intoxication in Maryland.

The county state's attorney's office requested a hearing to determine whether Dobihal had violated his probation.

Leonard Shapiro, the defendant's attorney, argued that his client was on work release and not probation when he was caught drinking and that the incident therefore shouldn't affect his probation.

Judge Bollinger found that drinking on work release was grounds for reinstating his five-year sentence.

"He signed an agreement to follow the work release rules, which forbid drinking," the judge said. "He agreed to refrain from drinking, but he didn't. His tears and his saying he was sorry meant nothing. I am reinstating the original sentence."

Dobihal was denied parole for the second time on April 1.

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