Lawsuit filed over retired Kent State professor's death

By Kyle McDonald | Staff Writer Published:

A Cuyahoga Falls woman who drove the car that struck and killed a retired Kent State University professor last year is being sued for wrongful death by the victim's family.

According to the Kent Police Department, 88-year-old Gordon Vars was struck by the vehicle operated by Deborah Graef, 57, at about 10 p.m. on Jan. 31, 2012, while crossing Fairchild Avenue in the crosswalk at the Woodard Avenue intersection.

Friends said he was on his way home from choir practice at KSU when the crash happened.

Vars was taken to Akron City Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The lawsuit, filed Dec. 14, 2012, states that Graef, "operated her vehicle in a negligent, careless, and reckless manner, at a speed in excess of the posted maximum speed of (25) miles per hour," when the westbound vehicle struck Vars in the crosswalk.

The lawsuit seeks the medical, legal and funeral expenses associated with Vars's death, and damages for mental and emotional distress caused to the plaintiff and widow Alice McVetty-Vars and family.

"Alice McVetty-Vars and the son and daughter represented by her, suffered severe mental anguish, depression, and emotional distress, permanently affecting their ability to enjoy life as they might have if Dr. Vars had not been struck by the vehicle operated by the Defendant," the complaint states.

Kent police decided not to press charges against Graef in June 2012.

At that time, Kent police Lt. Paul Canfield said the crash occurred because of unfortunate circumstance.

"It's not the best lit intersection," he said. "That situation was worsened by the wet conditions (that night)."

Canfield said the investigation found that Graef's car was moving at or near the speed limit when the crash occurred.

A status conference in the case is scheduled for May 23 before Judge John Enlow in Portage County Common Pleas Court.

Contact this reporter at 330-298-1127 or kmcdonald@recordpub.com

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  • No doubt an over zealous attorney is behind this action. If plaintiff loses, they should pay.

  • Hasn't everyone involved suffered enough? This was clearly "just an accident", as stated by the wife that night. It's sad that after time when lawyers and greed enter the picture, the story becomes convoluted. It seems the bottom line is ALL about the money, no matter if someone else's life gets destoyed in the process. This family has no compassion for Ms. Graef whatsoever.

  • I feel very badly for the loss this family has suffered, however no amount of money will bring their loved one back. I have heard that the professor had been advised by friends that it was not safe to be crossing that street at night; that he should be dropped off in his driveway but he insisted upon being dropped off across the street. (I am sure as to not inconvenience his friends) How many of us would be able to stop our car if someone stepped into the street right in front of us,especially on a dark and rainy night?

  • I'm surprised at their lawsuit. This was an accident. If someone is going to walk at 10 pm at night, one has to look out for their own wellbeing. Street dimly lit, rainy conditions, .... no charges filed at the time... An accident.

  • I hope one day the plaintiffs are driving along at night, in the rain, going the speed limit up a hill, with the limited light there is, glaring off of a wet windshield, hit a pedestrian crossing the street, and kill him. Then I hope the plaintiffs get sued for negligent, careless, reckless driving. See how they like it. Perhaps Miss Graef should sue the Vars family for her emotional distress of having struck and killed someone whom did not wait for the light or the crosswalk sign to turn green and say go.