Collbran couple to receive $280,000 in death of unborn child

The state of Colorado will pay $280,000 to a local family as part of a settlement in a wrongful death lawsuit against the Colorado State Patrol, officials said last week.

The lawsuit was filed after a November 2007 collision that injured a pregnant woman whose minivan was hit by a Jeep that was being pursued by a trooper.

Mike Saccone, spokesman for Attorney General John Suthers, whose office has represented the State Patrol and Trooper Jeffrey Vrbas in defense of the lawsuit, said the parties agreed on the payout to Shea and Sean Lehnen of Collbran.

Other terms have yet to be finalized.

Sgt. John Hahn, spokesman for the State Patrol in Lakewood, confirmed the pending payment but said he couldn’t comment further until the settlement is complete.

Word of an agreement was received by division staff of Mesa County Chief Judge David Bottger on March 25, following mediation between the parties that same day. A four-day hearing was scheduled to start Monday in Bottger’s courtroom and was expected to include testimony about vehicle-pursuit policies of the State Patrol.

The lawsuit centered on the actions of Vrbas during his pursuit Nov. 6, 2007, of then-20-year-old Logan Lage. Shea Lehnen’s minivan was struck head-on by a Jeep driven by Lage on Colorado Highway 65. Driving with a suspended license and attempting to elude the trooper, Lage collided with the minivan while trying to pass a pickup that was towing a trailer.

Lehnen’s injuries from the crash were blamed for the death of her unborn child.

The family’s lawsuit alleged Vrbas was heard telling dispatchers 16 minutes into the pursuit that speeds had reached 100 mph along sections of the narrow, two-lane highway.

The trooper started the pursuit at the intersection of Colorado 65 and Colorado Highway 330 after Lage’s Jeep was clocked at 68 mph in a stretch of road posted for 50 mph.

The lawsuit alleged Vrbas attempted several “tactical vehicle interventions,” or attempts to force the Jeep off the highway. Lage’s Jeep at one point “swerved” at the trooper, the lawsuit said.

After this exchange, Lage attempted the fateful pass.

The lawsuit alleged the trooper’s pursuit unreasonably escalated risks and was the “proximate cause” of the death of Shea Lehnen’s unborn child, Lileigh Lehnen.

Lage, meanwhile, pleaded guilty to child abuse resulting in death, second-degree assault and misdemeanor child abuse. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison.

The Lehnens could not be reached for comment.

“From the family’s perspective, this is not about an amount of money,” said Keith Killian, local attorney for the Lehnens. “They are expecting pursuit policies of the State Patrol will change as a result of this resolution.”


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