Seven-figure lawsuit filed in 2013 SXSW hit-and-run

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — The victim of a 2013 South by Southwest festival hit-and-run crash has filed a civil suit seeking more than $1 million in damages in Travis County District Court. The accident happened about one year prior to a tragic SXSW crash that left four people dead and many more injured in 2014.

The plaintiff, Eric Witherspoon of New Jersey, alleges a man driving a Chevrolet Suburban for a California music production company slammed into him the night of March 15, 2013, as he crossed the intersection at Congress Avenue and East Sixth Street.

Witherspoon, who was 54 years old at the time, was with his son and friends when the black SUV hit him as he was walking in a crosswalk around 9:30 p.m. The crash has left him with a variety of medical problems — including neurological issues, lingering pain and nerve damage, his attorney, Jeremy Thompson, said.

“[Witherspoon’s] life was fairly devastated after this happened. He hasn’t been the same,” Thompson said. “It was a significant impact — car on pedestrian.”

The lawsuit identifies the driver as Fernando Alvarez of Torrence, Calif. Alvarez allegedly drove from the spot of the crash, parked the rented truck about a block away and ran away from the scene. According to eyewitness accounts noted in the lawsuit, Alvarez allegedly stumbled when he got out of the car and had bloodshot eyes. Alvarez was not arrested or charged with a criminal offense in relation to the incident.

The crash was listed as a hit-and-run, and the driver “unknown,” in a Texas Department of Transportation crash report from the night of the incident.

The lawsuit also names company Bossytoe Productions, LLC and Mindi Pelletier as defendants. Nobody involved in the crash is from Austin or lives in Austin. Thompson said the discovery process could take months. A trial, if it happens, would probably not happen until next year.

Witherspoon’s accident preceded a deadly crash on Red River Street in 2014. Family members of those killed in the 2014 crash have filed suit against two companies that own SXSW, the alleged driver of the car and the traffic design consultant SXSW hired to oversee the road closures. The plaintiffs in that lawsuit claim the tragedy was preventable, among other things.

Rashad Owens has been charged with capital murder in the 2014 incident.

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