- Associated Press - Monday, March 30, 2015

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - The Idaho Supreme Court on Monday upheld a ruling that awards $3.5 million in damages to the family of a 15-year-old central Idaho boy who died in a crash during his driver’s education class.

The court rejected an appeal of the award by the Blaine County School District.

A jury in May 2013 found Carey School driver’s education instructor Jeffrey Mecham was 100 percent responsible for the Oct. 26, 2010, crash that killed Austin Hennefer.

Dennis and Maryann Hennefer of Carey filed the lawsuit against the school district contending it should be held responsible for Mecham’s “willful and reckless” decision to hold classes on a day with wintery weather and practice three-point turns on an icy highway.

The Supreme Court ruled that a limitation on non-economic damages in Idaho code did not apply in the case because the district was found to have acted recklessly.



The court also ruled that the jury was properly instructed on what constituted reckless misconduct and that the evidence supported the verdict. The court refused to grant the district’s request for a new trial.

The school district is on spring break and officials didn’t return a call from The Associated Press seeking comment. The Hennefers couldn’t be reached.

The driver’s education car was performing a maneuver used to make a 180-degree turn on a stretch of U.S. Highway 20 that’s otherwise too narrow for a U-turn when it was struck by an oncoming car.

Hennefer died at the scene, and 15-year-old classmate was airlifted to a hospital with a broken hip that required surgery.

Mecham, who was 41 at the time of the accident, also was seriously injured and flown to a hospital.

Sergio Lopez-Rodriguez of Gooding, the driver of the other car, was also flown to a hospital. Jurors found he was not negligent in the crash.

Jurors also found Austin Hennefer was not negligent in operating the vehicle.

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