Wrongful death lawsuit filed by parents of MU student

Friday, September 2, 2011 | 7:00 p.m. CDT; updated 5:11 p.m. CDT, Saturday, September 3, 2011

COLUMBIA — The parents of an MU student killed in a motorcycle accident in August 2010 have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the driver in that crash.

The only child of Michael and Patricia Valora, Caitlin, was 20 years old when she died in the early morning of Aug. 9, 2010.

Aaron Hansberry was charged with involuntary manslaughter after a motorcycle accident caused the death of Caitlin Valora, according to court records.

Hansberry and Valora were driving westbound on East Nifong Boulevard when they passed a red light at dawn. The alcohol level in Hansberry’s blood was believed to be over the legal limit, as reported by the Columbia Tribune.

The lawsuit states the motorcycle then hit the curb at the T-intersection of State Farm Parkway, making the motorcycle fly 55 feet away and throwing Valora an additional 65 feet.

Hansberry was believed to be wearing a helmet at the time of the accident and the police did not find evidence of Valora wearing one, the Missourian reported.

The accident occurred after a party sometime between 5 and 7 a.m., although Hansberry did not report it until approximately 11 a.m., according to the Columbia Tribune.

The lawsuit states Hansberry violated traffic laws that included driving at a high speed, failure to stop or slow down and driving while intoxicated which caused Valora to suffer greatly from multiple injuries before she died.

Hansberry received treatment for a broken leg as a result of the accident, the Missourian reported.

Hansberry's father, Roger Hansberry, is also listed in the lawsuit. The suit states that Roger "knew or should have known that Aaron Hansberry was too inexperienced to operate the motorcycle safely," which in turn helped cause the accident. Hansberry was 21 at the time.

Michael and Patricia Valora did not respond to calls made by the Missourian.

Hansberry is set to stand trial on Sept. 13.

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Tim Trayle September 4, 2011 | 8:33 a.m.

Any person who carries a passenger on a motorbike without providing that passenger with full safety equipment, is being atrociously irresponsible. Responsible motorcyclists wear safety equipment--proper helmet, boots, and gloves at an absolute *minimum.* To allow a passenger to ride unprotected is fundamentally unethical. If Hainsberry took Valora on board without providing her with a proper helmet--even if he was NOT drunk--he should bear full responsibility for her death.

(Report Comment)
Tim Dance September 4, 2011 | 9:11 a.m.

Looks like the victim's parents know that the younger Hainsberry doesn't have any assets so they are going after the father. What a slimy thing to do. If the 21 year old was licensed by the state to drive the vehicle, then it is on him not the father. It is like saying that Valora's father is partially to blame because he should of known that his daughter like to party until 6 am and should of did something about it. It seems like this person is trying to profit off of his daughter's death. Despicable.

(Report Comment)
Mike Valora September 6, 2011 | 10:26 a.m.

Slimy, despicable? These are strong, opinionated words from someone basing their comments on a page and a half article. You do not know the details, facts or circumstances. I wonder if you could look Caitlin's mom and me in the face and use the same words. Would you sense even a hint of the pain we feel from losing Caitlin?

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams September 6, 2011 | 11:11 a.m.

Mr Valora:

As the father of 3 daughters, I am unable to comprehend what you and your wife are going through. I can only offer the deepest of my sympathies and regrets for your loved daughter.

I agree Tim's comments were ham-fisted and unwarranted in the way they were presented (and his unproved innuendo about motive); in his own heavy-handed way, he is asking "What does the father have to do with this?"...a question I have asked myself privately upon reading the article. We as a society often ask questions like this when lawsuits are filed and questions of responsibility for a tragedy are asked. I am in agreement with you that forming any conclusion at this point is unwise at best; we DON'T know the details, facts, and circumstances, especially from a short Missourian article. Those things will come out at trial and, at that point, society will be able to form its own opinion about culpability.

But we as a society do ask these kinds of questions.

I would like to ask you a question, tho: In your opinion, is the article accurate as written, given that all facts cannot come out until trial? Or has the Missourian inserted itself into this news and made a bit of news in doing so?

(Report Comment)
Mike Valora September 6, 2011 | 1:13 p.m.

Michael, thank you for the response. There are inaccuracies in the article. However, I'm sure you can appreciate I am not in a position to discuss them in any way.

(Report Comment)
Katherine Reed September 6, 2011 | 1:30 p.m.

Michael, this is Katherine Reed and I'm the public safety editor here at the Missourian. I am concerned about the inaccuracies you cite in the article. We will correct and/or clarify any errors, if you would be willing to email me at this address: I certainly understand that you may feel constrained by the pending litigation, but if any part of the public record that we have cited in our story is wrong I hope you will let me know so we won't repeat the errors. Thank you so much.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams September 6, 2011 | 3:54 p.m.


You addressed your comments to me, but they should be addressed to Mr. Valora. I am not involved in this case in any capacity, and I know none of the principals. Mr. Valora is a primary source; I am only a reader of the column.

When I asked my question, I was simply curious if Mr. Valora saw any inaccuracies in the story. I wanted to know if, via their reporting, the Missourian had inserted itself into the news and/or made news. This was not a question out of thin air; rather, I have noticed, at times, that reporters from the Missourian insert themselves into stories, thereby making news rather than just reporting it. This is my opinion only and may not be shared by others, including your editor.

I observed this just the other day in the Missourian; however, in that case the writer(s) was from the AP although the Missourian did publish it. It concerned an article title which implied something was toxic; the article stated toxicity as fact when there were no facts or data given. That was sloppy reporting. It wasn't the first time. However, other news sources of all varieties do the same thing. Nonetheless, a majority practice does not necessarily define "rightness".

I wanted to know from a primary source if such a thing occurred here. If it did, I figured y'all might want to know.

(Report Comment)
Jimmy Bearfield September 6, 2011 | 4:19 p.m.

"It concerned an article title which implied something was toxic; the article stated toxicity as fact when there were no facts or data given. That was sloppy reporting."

That's not sloppy reporting. That's sloppy editing. Reporters don't write headlines. Their editors do.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams September 6, 2011 | 4:47 p.m.

Jimmy says, "Reporters don't write headlines. Their editors do."

I guess I just thought it was a collaborative effort. Shows what I know about the business. Guess I was wrong on the title, but correct on the content.

(Report Comment)
steven mock October 9, 2011 | 1:57 a.m.

As Aaron's best friend he is a good person. He was national honor society president and captain of Lee's Summit football team. He graduated college in 4 years with a solid gpa. He made a mistake. Should aaron be punished? Honestly, he already has been punished with guilt. The situation is terible, and I wish the best for both parties.

(Report Comment)

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