HAMMOND — The parents of a Merrillville teenager killed in a 2016 traffic accident are suing the driver responsible for the fatal crash and the teen's school district.
Whether Edward and Jennifer Salka can recover any monetary damages over the death of their son, 17-year-old Andrew Salka, was the subject Wednesday of a pretrial hearing before U.S. District Court Magistrate John E. Martin.
It comes a month after the emotional sentencing of his killer sparked insults and raw emotions in another courtroom.
The case stems from an accident Oct. 17, 2016. Andrew Salka, a junior at Merrillville High, left school about 1 p.m. and was walking near 73rd Avenue and Mississippi Street, when Christopher E. Campbell, 44, of Hebron, fatally struck him in a 1999 Chevrolet Suburban.
The Salkas are suing Christopher Campbell, Christopher's mother, Shirley R. Campbell, the owner of the Suburban, Merrillville School Corp. and Merrillville High School.
Christopher Campbell is serving a 10-year prison term for causing the teen's death while driving under the influence of pain medication, anti-anxiety medication and THC — a primary compound of marijuana.
The suit alleges his mother negligently allowed Christopher access to her car and that school officials are at fault for negligently releasing Andrew Salka from his classes that day without his parents' consent.
Valparaiso attorney Jon F. Schmoll, who represents the Salka family, was in federal court with attorneys defending the school district. Shirley Campbell, who cannot afford an attorney, joined the court proceeding by telephone. Christopher Campbell was absent.
Shirley Campbell told the court Wednesday she filed for bankruptcy and won an order in 2017 discharging her from such claims. Schmoll said Wednesday no one notified his clients of a bankruptcy judgment. He will research the matter to see if that bars his suit against her.
The magistrate said he would arrange to have Christopher Campbell join the next pre-trial hearing April 11 by telephone as well.
Two years ago, Christopher Campbell wrote the Porter Superior Court, after the suit was first filed, stating his mother shouldn't be blamed because she wasn't home when he he took her Suburban out for a drive.
In the note, he blamed Andrew Salka for talking on a phone and reading papers when he walked out of a wooded area and into the roadway just before the accident. He also stated neither he nor his mother have much money to compensate the Salkas.
Tensions between the two families erupted Jan. 8 when Christopher Campbell was sentenced in Lake Criminal Court in Crown Point. Family members of the Hebron man insulted the teen's mother, stormed out of the courtroom and called the Campbell's defense attorney a profane name.