Florida Keys News - Key West Citizen
Thursday, November 8, 2012
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Deputy, sheriff sued in electric car accident

The family of a man driving an electric car who was killed after being struck by a Monroe County Sheriff's Office patrol car last year has filed a lawsuit against the deputy behind the wheel and Sheriff Bob Peryam, according to court records.

Sherry Lynn Graft, widow of Randal Graft, also filed the lawsuit against Adventure Rentals in Key West and Lafayette County Car Co., the manufacturer of the electric car that Graft was driving on May 29, 2011, when he was rear-ended by Deputy Scott Ward on U.S. 1 on Boca Chica Key, according to the 20-page complaint.

Fort Lauderdale attorney Thomas Buser cited the Florida Wrongful Death Act in the lawsuit, in which he alleged Ward failed to "exercise reasonable care" and was "negligent" in the crash.

Graft further alleges that Adventure Rentals and the manufacturer "failed to adequately, properly and sufficiently advise renters" that electric cars should not be driven on roadways with speed limits greater than 30 mph, according to the lawsuit.

Peryam is named in the lawsuit because as sheriff he is "vicariously liable" for the actions of Ward, according to the complaint.

Buser did not answer a phone message seeking comment Wednesday and the Sheriff's Office does not comment on pending litigation, said spokeswoman Becky Herrin.

A careless-driving citation issued to Ward by Florida Highway Patrol troopers was tossed when no witnesses to the crash appeared in court. Ward had been represented by defense attorney Anthony Livoti in that case, but it was not clear if he would be representing Ward in the civil matter, as Livoti did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Graft, 54, of North Huntingdon, Pa., was alone in the electric car driving south in the right lane on the Boca Chica Key bridge at 7:41 a.m. when he was struck from behind by Ward, who was on his way to patrol Higgs Beach in Key West.

Graft later died on June 5, 2011, at Ryder Trauma Center in Miami.

Neither drugs nor alcohol were factors in the crash, troopers found, but Ward had been looking at an in-car computer at the time of the crash, according to the FHP investigation report. He reportedly was going 59 mph in a 55 mph zone and Graft was going 20 mph.

Video from a patrol car camera shows the electric car was partially out of its lane and that Ward apparently didn't see it until it was too late, Sheriff's Col. Rick Ramsay said after the crash.

alinhardt@keysnews.com

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