Event venue not liable in fatal Yukon crash, judge rules

Defendant’s motion for summary judgment granted

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District Judge Jack D. McCurdy

By Conrad Dudderar
Staff Writer

An event venue is not liable in a lawsuit stemming from a fatal Yukon crash, a judge has ruled.

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Canadian County District Judge Jack D. McCurdy II on Aug. 29 filed an order granting The Springs Events LLC’s motion for summary judgment.

The Springs was named as a defendant in a civil suit arising from a deadly October 2020 traffic collision on the Kilpatrick Turnpike near S.W. 15th caused by a habitual drunk driving offender.

Mustang’s Jeff Murrow, who’s 19-year-old daughter Marissa was killed in the “wrong-way” crash, believes The Springs was partially responsible because Malcolm Douglas Penney drank to excess at a wedding there before getting behind the wheel.

Malcolm Douglas Penney

Penney, 40, was convicted in February of second-degree murder and leaving the scene of a fatality accident. He is serving a life sentence in state prison.

The civil suit, filed on behalf of the victim’s parents Jeff and Kristine Murrow, lists Malcolm Penney and his wife Amanda as co-defendants. Amanda Penney owned the vehicle her husband was driving when he collided head-on with Marissa Murrow’s car.

“This case arises out of a horrible accident in which the plaintiffs’ daughter was killed by an intoxicated driver who attended a wedding at the defendant’s wedding venue,” Judge McCurdy wrote in his court order.

“The issue raised in the (The Springs’) motion is whether or not the defendant owed a duty to the plaintiffs under Oklahoma law for the result of the acts of a third party. To that question, the Court finds the answer is no, they did not.”

The Springs, which owns and operates a for-profit event venue north of Edmond, was sued for negligence for failing to “enforce or properly implement its rules, policies, procedures and prohibitions related to the on-premises consumption of alcohol” at the Oct. 2, 2020 wedding.

The Springs allowed or directed Malcolm Penney to leave its premises despite him having consumed alcohol for “nearly 10 hours that day” and leaving intoxicated in a private motor vehicle, according to the lawsuit.

Judge McCurdy, however, found that the common law rule applies to this set of facts. That law being that “a person has no duty to prevent a third person from causing a physical injury to another.”

The judge found there is no “statutory duty” he is aware of that would impose a duty on The Springs or that applies in this case.

He further found that this “set of facts do not place this case within any of the carved-out exceptions that would impose liability” on the defendant, according to his order.

In granting The Springs’ motion for summary judgment, Judge McCurdy wrote that the actions of defendant Malcolm Penney were a “supervening cause that would also prevent the plaintiffs from recovering against the defendant, The Springs LLC.”

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HOW IT HAPPENED

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol investigated the fatal crash that occurred at 12:13 a.m. Oct. 3, 2020, in eastern Canadian County.

Malcolm Penney was driving the 2018 Mitsubishi Outlander northbound in the southbound lanes of the Kilpatrick Turnpike.

That vehicle struck Marissa Murrow’s southbound 2014 Ford Focus head-on and she died from her injuries.

The Mustang High School graduate was headed to her family home when she was killed.

Penney fled on foot before being found by Oklahoma City police officers and brought back to the scene, where he was identified by witnesses.

He did not call 911 and took no action to obtain emergency medical services for Murrow, who was trapped inside her wrecked vehicle.

Troopers observed several indicators that Penney was under the influence of alcohol and a blood-alcohol test showed he was driving at twice the legal limit.

Penney had four previous DUI convictions and one public drunk conviction in Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, and Louisiana. In each DUI case, he received a suspended sentence.

In a written statement for a pre-sentence investigation report, Penney acknowledged he had gone to the wedding where he had been drinking and then drove his car.

Penney thought he was taking a turnpike on-ramp – but it was the off-ramp, according to the report.

Marissa Murrow

When she was killed, Marissa Murrow was a sophomore at the University of Central Oklahoma studying to become a special education teacher. She was a member of the Sigma Kappa sorority.

“Marissa was not only a loving daughter and sister for her family she was a trusted friend to hundreds of people,” according to the civil suit.

Jeff and Kristy Murrow seek to recover damages for their daughter’s personal injuries, physical and mental pain and suffering, loss of companionship, grief and sorrow, and loss of the family relationship.

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