YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: The father of a Fort Lee man should have known of his son’s DWI and criminal history when he gave him the car that he crashed while drunk in Ridgefield earlier this summer, a lawsuit filed by a classmate who was injured and the mother of another who was killed in the accident alleges.
Munther Ammar was “incompetent, unfit, inexperienced and/or reckless” in entrusting the operation of his car to his 20-year-old son, Tamer, the lawsuit filed in Hackensack says.
He “knew, should have known, or had reason to know” of his son’s history before the pre-dawn July 24 crash near the Ridgefield circle that killed front-seat passenger Miles Reme and injured fellow Fort Lee High School alumnus James Racanelli, both 20, it alleges.
State Motor Vehicle Commission records show that Ammar was ticketed 16 months ago for DUI in Fairview, leading to a seven-month driver’s license suspension.
He also has charges on his record for reckless driving in Virginia, for prescription drug distribution in Connecticut and for marijuana distribution last winter in Fort Lee.
The civil suit was filed by attorney Rosemarie Arnold in Superior Court in Hackensack on behalf of back-seat passenger Racanelli and Reme’s mother, Deborah Scholbach-Reme.
Determining what Ammar did and with whom just before the crash has been difficult, Arnold told CLIFFVIEW PILOT this morning.
Besides naming Tamer Ammar and his father, the suit seeks to hold responsible those who gave him the alcohol, as well as those who drank with him.
“One of my clients was killed, the other has no memory of the night of the accident. The driver is in a coma,” said Arnold, expressing hope that those with useful information would contact her.
Reme, who was pinned in the car, was pronounced dead at Hackensack University Medical Center at 2:40 a.m., while Racanelli ended up in serious condition at HUMC. Ammar was taken to the trauma unit at St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Paterson.
All attended Fort Lee High School, where Ammar played football, Reme played baseball and Racanelli wrestled.
Ammar was drunk and speeding when he lost control of his father’s 2014 Honda Civic as it headed north on Broad Avenue toward the circle around 1:30 a.m., Bergen County Prosecutor John L. Molinelli said on Aug. 30.
The car “mounted the sidewalk on his right hand side and drove through two bus stop sign posts,” then barreled into the southbound lane heading north, crossed the grass median at the intersection of Broad Avenue and Edgewater Road and finally slammed head-in into the wall of an accounting business, he said.
“The collision scene, from the bus stop sign posts to the building where the Honda came to rest, measured approximately 1,400 feet” — roughly a quarter-mile, Molinelli said.
Prosecutors charged Ammar with death by auto and reckless DWI.
The civil action, meanwhile, alleges that he operated his father’s car “in a negligent and/or careless manner, and/or with reckless disregard” for his two passengers.
The resulting crash caused front-seat passenger Reme “excruciating conscious pain and suffering including physical and mental torment, which ultimately resulted in his wrongful death,” the suit says.
Reme’s family “has been compelled to spend great and diverse sums of money for medical aid and treatment, funeral and other expenses,” it adds. “[They] will continue to sustain harm, losses of services, society, comfort, guidance and support.”
Racanelli, meanwhile, “suffered severe and permanent injuries, was disabled and disfigured, has suffered and will continue to suffer great pain and torment, both mental and physical, and has been and will in the future be compelled to spend great and diverse sums of money for medical aid and treatment,” the suit says.
“[He] has been and will be prevented from attending to his usual occupation, duties, activities and business,” it adds.
The suit seeks unspecified compensatory damages, along with attorney fees, interest and costs.
It also cites several people yet to be identified.
Ammar was among “social guests on the premises owned and/or occupied by” the as-yet unknown defendants, the lawsuit says.
They had a legal obligation not to serve Ammar and “knew or should have known” that he was “visibly visibly intoxicated and/or under the influence of a controlled, dangerous substance, and/or under the influence of an intoxicating substance while on [their] premises,” it says.
The suit also cites unnamed others who “shared, encouraged, condoned and/or facilitated the consumption of alcoholic beverages and/or controlled, dangerous substances and/or intoxicating substances” by him and “negligently and/or carelessly encouraged” him to drive despite his condition.
Besides the death by auto and reckless DWI counts, Ammar was charged with assault by auto, for injuring Racanelli, and issued several summonses for, among other offenses, DWI, reckless driving, carless driving, driving over the sidewalk and failing to keep right.
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