Attorney: Wife of Joe Senser was driver in fatal hit & run

6:31 AM, Sep 5, 2011   |    comments
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  • Amy Senser in photo provided by attorneys
  • Accident victim Anousone Phanthavong
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  • BLOOMINGTON, Minn. - The wife of former Vikings tight end Joe Senser was driving the SUV involved in a fatal hit and run in Minneapolis, the family's lawyer says.

    In a statement released Friday afternoon, Eric J. Nelson said "Now that various legal matters have been clarified regarding a potential criminal case and civil lawsuit, it is now appropriate to disclose that the driver in this incident was Ms. Amy Senser."

    Nelson would not divulge whether Mrs. Senser was alone in the vehicle at the time of accident, or why she was in the area at 11 p.m. on August 23rd at the time of the accident.

    Friday morning, attorneys for the family of the victim told KARE 11 a lawsuit was being prepared. Attorney Jim Schwebel also told KARE 11 approximately 10 people could be subpoenaed in an effort to identify the driver of the SUV involved.

    38-year-old Anousone Phanthavong of Roseville was killed as he poured gas into his vehicle on Interstate 94 near the ramp from Riverside Avenue in Minneapolis on August 23rd. The next day, an attorney for the Senser family called the State Patrol and told investigators that Joe Senser owns the vehicle involved in the fatal accident.

    In an interview with KARE, Nelson said the family has not made any deliberate attempts to conceal evidence from investigators.

    "This is not a function of the Sensers trying to conceal anything," Nelson told KARE. "What we're trying to do here is cooperate. They turned in the vehicle. But for that action the state patrol might not to this day know."

    Lt. Eric Roeske, the spokesperson for the Minnesota State Patrol, said there will be no arrests in the case until investigators gather sufficient evidence to justify criminal charges.

    "At this point the accident is still under investigation, and these things take time," Lt. Roeske told KARE Friday afternoon. 

    The statement from the Senser's attorney concluded with the words, "The loss of Mr. Phanthavong's life has weighed heavily on Ms. Senser and her entire family. The Senser family requests privacy at this time as they continue to deal with this tragic matter. The Senser family extends their deepest sympathies to all those affected."

    Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman declined to comment on the case, because nobody has been arrested or the case has not been referred to his office for possible charges.

    So far, Amy Senser has not been arrested or charged in the case. KARE's policy is not to identify suspects until they're charged. In this case the family volunteered that Mrs. Senser was the driver.

    Schwebel said the wrongful death cases are typically filed against both the owner of the vehicle and the driver of the vehicle.  His associate Jim Ballentine told KARE that owners can be held liable in civil cases, unless they can prove the car was stolen.

    "By statute if the driver operates a motor vehicle with the consent of the owner, then that driver becomes the agent of the owner," Ballentine explained. "And I think we all know what that means, that driver is acting, we might say, on behalf of the owner."

    Ballentine said that punitive damages are often sought in cases in which the driver of the vehicle was impaired by alcohol. It's impossible to know a driver's blood alcohol content ten days after an accident.

    But judges in civil cases have the discretion to accept testimony from toxicologists estimating a driver's level of impairment based on eye witness accounts of alcohol consumption in the hours prior to an incident.

    "With regard to witnesses that might have information about any claim we're bringing, it certainly is easier to subpoena them to appear for their deposition when there is a lawsuit pending."

    Schwebel, speaking before Mrs. Senser was identified by her attorneys, said he expected the victim's family would file a wrongful death action on Tuesday after Labor Day. 

    (Copyright 2011 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)

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