By Mike Stetzer
A Montana attorney facing multiple charges after a fatal hit-and-run last year may be able to get out of paying damages to the victims' family due to a pending personal bankruptcy, according to the Columbia Daily Tribune.
James A. Clampitt was charged with first-degree involuntary manslaughter and driving under the influence in the death of Richard Cobb on June 13, 2010. Authorities believe the defendant was intoxicated when his SUV hit Cobb, who was riding a lawn mower. The newspaper said witnesses claim Cobb had motioned for Clampitt's vehicle to go around him, but the SUV did not alter its path.
Clampitt reportedly claimed that he did not realize he had hit Clampitt, as he was looking down to read a text message at the time of the accident and assumed he had hit a curb. Clampitt's case is set to go to trial starting July 19.
The defendant filed for bankruptcy in January, declaring his debt as $1.17 million and assets at $340,700. Clampitt's criminal case is on hold during the bankruptcy proceedings, reported the news source, which said he may be cleared from paying damages to Cobb's family above what his insurance would offer if his bankruptcy case is successful.
Bankruptcy laws help people cannot pay their debts get a new start by liquidating assets or creating a repayment plan. Some debts, such as student loans, cannot be excused by a bankruptcy filing.