Judge accepts amendment to Harrington civil suit - The Daily Progress: News

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Judge accepts amendment to Harrington civil suit

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Posted: Thursday, April 18, 2013 10:56 pm

A Charlottesville judge Thursday accepted an amended complaint against the company that provided security at the Metallica concert Morgan Harrington attended the night she went missing.

The 20-year-old Virginia Tech student was disoriented after suffering a "serious head injury" during the October 2009 show at the John Paul Jones Arena, according to new witness details folded into the original 2011 suit.

Harrington was turned away from the show after stepping outside, despite the two- to three-inch gash on her chin, the complaint states. Her body was found three months later on an Albemarle County farm.

No arrest has been made in the case, which authorities have linked forensically to the 2005 rape and abduction of a woman in Fairfax County.

"Sometimes we think we're finding ... a way back to normal," Harrington's mother, Gil, said after the court hearing Thursday. "Then you see a young girl walk by ... and it sends you down the rabbit hole of grief."

The suit, filed by Gil Harrington on behalf of her daughter's estate, seeks $3.9 million from Regional Marketing Concepts Inc. for allegations of negligence and breach of contract.

Regional Marketing staff had a duty to safeguard concertgoers, which was done in at least one other instance the night Harrington vanished, the suit states. Event staff arranged a cab ride from the arena for an intoxicated off-duty Fairfax County police officer, according to the complaint.

The company knew of at least 40 assaults that had taken place at or near the venue in the years leading up to Harrington's disappearance, and failed to exercise reasonable care to protect the apparently visibly injured concertgoer, the suit alleges.

Harrington was injured between leaving her seat at about 8:15 and 8:30 p.m., when she arrived at an arena bathroom, according to an eyewitness account cited in the complaint.

Attorneys for Regional Marketing asked the court to compel three police agencies involved in an ongoing criminal investigation and the state medical examiner's office to provide them with information that could help build the company's defense. Judge Edward Hogshire largely struck down the request.

Regional Marketing lawyers sought items such as Harrington's autopsy report and communications between the Harrington family with police and the office of the chief medical examiner.

Hogshire, who will reach Virginia's age-mandated judicial retirement limit next year, said he'd "never seen a case in this posture before."

"We have to strike some kind of a balance," he said of the need to safeguard investigative materials and the right of defense attorneys to seek out evidence that could support their client. 

The Harringtons' attorney, Lee Livingston, said one case might help the other. Dozens of people have reached out to the Roanoke County family with tips and messages of support over the past three years, he said.

"Hopefully, these investigations will run on parallel tracks," Livingston said.

Regional Marketing attorneys Carol Stone and Stephen Hall declined interview requests Thursday.

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