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Tow truck driver threatens suit in Hancock death

Thursday, June 21, 2007 | 9:53 a.m. CDT; updated 3:24 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008
Tow truck driver Jacob Hargrove, who was involved in the fatal crash of Cardinals pitcher Josh Hancock, and his attorney Robert Pedroli, right, talk during a news conference Wednesday, June 20, 2007, in St. Louis, Mo. Pedroli is giving Hancock's family 21 days to drop its wrongful death lawsuit. Hancock was killed April 29 after his sport utility vehicle plowed into the back of a tow truck while it was stopped in front of a stalled-out vehicle on Interstate 64 in St. Louis.

ST. LOUIS (AP) - A lawyer representing the tow truck driver involved in the fatal crash of Cardinals pitcher Josh Hancock is giving Hancock's family 21 days to drop its wrongful death lawsuit.

If the family doesn't drop the suit, attorney Robert Pedroli said Wednesday he will countersue and seek punitive damages from Hancock's estate.

"They're ignoring all the facts and proceeding with a frivolous lawsuit," he said, adding that he's not looking to punish Hancock's family.

Keith Kantack, a lawyer for Dean Hancock, did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Hancock was killed April 29 after his sport utility vehicle plowed into the back of a tow truck while it was stopped behind a stalled-out vehicle on Interstate 64 in St. Louis.

Authorities said the 29-year-old pitcher had nearly twice the legal limit for alcohol in his system when he crashed into the back of the tow truck. He also was speeding, using a cell phone and wasn't wearing a seat belt, authorities said.

Hancock's father, Dean Hancock, of Tupelo, Miss., filed a lawsuit in May claiming negligence contributed to Hancock's death.

Named in the suit were Mike Shannon's Restaurant, where Josh Hancock drank before getting on the highway; Shannon's daughter, Patricia Shannon Van Matre, the restaurant manager; Eddie's Towing; tow truck driver Jacob Hargrove; and Justin Tolar, the driver whose stalled car on Interstate 64 was being assisted by Hargrove.

Pedroli said the evidence shows that the crash was caused by a variety of factors _ Josh Hancock's blood-alcohol level, his cell phone use, and lack of significant braking.

He said there is no evidence that his client, Hargrove, contributed to dangerous road conditions. In fact, he made them safer by coming behind an unlit, stranded vehicle that had hit the median, he said.

Pedroli said Hargrove turned on his truck's lights, called 911 and reported the accident location.

Hargrove was sitting inside the tow truck when the accident occurred. Pedroli said his client was "banged around pretty good" and suffered emotional scars.

"It's a frivolous lawsuit in our opinion," he said.

The demand includes dropping both the tow truck driver and the towing company from the suit.

"We're taking the high road here," Pedroli said. "This lawsuit is against all good reason and common sense, and it's receiving the wrath of the nation."

Hargrove was served with that lawsuit Tuesday, prompting Wednesday's call for the Hancock family to drop it.

The lawsuit accuses Hargrove of "negligently parking his vehicle in the left lane of Interstate 64 and blocking oncoming traffic and failing to adequately warn approaching motorists."


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