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Lawsuit argues pizza driver, his employer were negligent in doctor’s death

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Saturday, April 12, 2014, at 1:55 p.m.
  • Updated Saturday, April 12, 2014, at 2:47 p.m.

The wife and daughter of a well-known Wichita pediatrician struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver while out for a late-night jog two years ago has sued the driver – who was reportedly delivering pizza at the time of the incident – and the delivery man’s employer.

The lawsuit raises safety issues, said Andrew Hutton, one of the lawyers bringing the lawsuit. “Pizza drivers oftentimes are in a hurry between runs, and they need to slow down,” Hutton said. “Pizza drivers need to be careful.” And another issue, Hutton said: “Cellphone usage while driving can be dangerous, and even more dangerous at nighttime.”

The lawsuit says that Cody A. Fields was delivering pizza for his employer, Pizza Hut of Southeast Kansas Inc., when his 1998 Ford Mustang hit William H. Whiteside on a Kechi street in April 2012.

Fields, 25, of Park City, received probation after pleading guilty to leaving the scene of an accident, a felony.

The lawsuit claims Fields was negligent in his driving and negligent in failing to help Whiteside, 65. It says Fields was driving while texting or distracted.

The lawsuit also claims that his employer was negligent in failing to properly supervise Fields when it knew or should have known that he would text or use his cellphone while driving to deliver pizzas and that it failed to properly train him about the dangers of texting or using a cellphone while driving.

The lawsuit, filed in March in Sedgwick County District Court by Hutton and attorneys Michael Hepperly and William Robb, seeks more than $75,000.

In an answer filed earlier this month in response to the lawsuit, defendants’ attorney Patrick Murphy denied his clients were negligent and denied the allegations. Murphy couldn’t be reached for comment.

The defendants claim that it was Whiteside, or someone else, who was at a fault.

The lawsuit petition says Whiteside was acting “in an appropriate and reasonable manner.”

In an Eagle article days after Whiteside’s death in April 2012, his wife, Dana Whiteside, said her husband had recently turned 65 and was still busy in his practice and planning to work many more years.

He also was a dedicated runner – he was in training for the Wichita River Festival River Run – and had gone for a jog near his Kechi home at about 10:15 p.m., his wife said.

Whiteside was a few hundred yards from his home when he was run over and killed by a hit-and-run driver, according to the Sheriff’s Office. The driver turned himself in the following morning, the office said.

Reach Tim Potter at 316-268-6684 or tpotter@wichitaeagle.com.

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