Lawsuit filed in 2013 hit-and-run death of teenage girl

Lawsuit names driver charged with killing teen, driver's boyfriend

By Tarik Minor - Anchor, I-TEAM reporter
Family photo

Family photo of Haley Smith

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. - The mother of a teenage girl who died in a hit-and-run four years ago filed a lawsuit last week in St. Johns County court.

Haley Smith, 15, was struck by a vehicle Nov. 17, 2013, on Kenton Morrison Road, just south of State Road 16, in St. Augustine. She was rushed to UF Health Jacksonville, where she died. 

The driver, Tiffany Higginbotham, was arrested earlier this year. She has pleaded guilty in the case and has been sentenced to 17 years in prison. 

In the lawsuit, Haley's mother, Jo-Lee Manning, names Higginbotham and Higginbotham's boyfriend. Manning's lawyer believes the boyfriend may have had knowledge of the hit-and-run in his truck.

News4Jax has chosen not to name the boyfriend because he isn't charged with a crime, but the lawsuit states that he gave Higginbotham permission to drive the truck the night of the hit-and-run.

The lawsuit alleges he knew about the accident and failed to contact police.

"Especially in hit-and-runs, if the other person is aware and helped the other person hide it, then they should be held just as accountable as the person who was driving," Manning told News4Jax.

Albert Lechner, Manning's attorney, hopes a victory in the lawsuit will send a message to other that they will be held accountable if they assist in protecting a hit-and-run driver.

"She was driving in a truck owned by her boyfriend. It's titled in his company's name. It's the same truck she was driving when she struck the second person two years later. She'd been driving it for years, and we feel like others had to have known," Lechner said. 

Manning has started a nonprofit organization, which will focus on educating young people and adults, and reaching out to families affected by hit-and-runs and DUIs. 

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