After almost losing her life to her parent's poor judgement, a little girl has taken her family to task--and to court.
12-year-old Faith Carberry, of Langford, Ireland, filed a lawsuit against both her parents after sustaining severe injuries from a drunk driving accident caused by her own mother. On Wednesday, the liability suit was settled between her father, the owner of the car, and the Motor Insurance Bureau of Ireland. But the damages caused by her mother's accident are still being assessed by the judge in the coming weeks.
Faith, just seven at the time, was at the mercy of her mom Mary Carberry's binge drinking the night a fatal car crash took the life of her sister Ava, 6, and another little girl, Michaela Logan, 9. Michaela's brother John was also injured but survived the crash.
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Mary, now 35, already had a history of chronic alcoholism and was banned from driving for six years after two DUI arrests, when she crashed her BMW into an embankment in November of 2007.
Faith survived, but suffered serious spinal injuries which left her in a cast for 10 weeks. She later spent three months in therapy traumatized by the death of her sister.
Five years later, she filed a lawsuit through her grandfather, Anthony Carberry, against both her mother and her father, Tommy Varden, for physical and psychological damage.
The little girl's troubled childhood was highlighted in court testimony five years ago, during her mother's trial after the accident.
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According to Mary's account, published in the Irish Independent, her evening of drinking involved a pub crawl that was broken up only by a trip to pick kids up from school. With four children in the backseat, Mary claims she had "blacked out" when the car plunged into an embankment.
"All I remember is the thump. Then the flashing blue lights," she recounted to the judge. "I did not know what I hit. I remember Ava, I remember her face, I just don't know what happened. I don't remember arriving in the hospital."
If her mother was ill-suited as a guardian, Faith's lawsuit suggests her father, too, played a part in the neglect.
Tommy Varden, a wealthy businessman now in his 70s, had been estranged from his Mary after a long relationship, but claimed to have provided financial support to his kids, and had repeatedly called on social services when Mary's drug and alcohol problems seemed a threat to her children. When Mary lost her license after a two drunk driving incidents, her kids had to walk a mile and a half to school.
That's when Varden claimed he bought Mary the BMW involved in the accident.
"It pulled at my heartstrings," Varden told the court, according to the Irish Examiner. "She was seeking for me to provide transport, purchase a car, and somebody who was insured and had a full license would drive it."
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For Faith and other young kids at the mercy of parent who drink and drive, there might never be a proper explanation for the mental and physical trauma she endured.
In the US alone, more than two thirds of children fatally injured in car accidents, were riding with drunk drivers, according to a report by the Center of Disease Control and Prevention.
While both teenagers and adults have been schooled in the dangers of riding with intoxicated drivers, young kids don't have the same ability or knowledge to opt out of a ride, especially if it's a parent behind the wheel.
Back in March, a mom was allegedly so impaired on the road, her 15-year-old daughter called 911 from the passenger's seat. In 2009, three young kids died in a crash on the Taconic highway, after the driver, a parent and guardian, was found to be intoxicated after a police investigation.
The organization Mothers Against Drunk Driving claims to have received "an increasing number of alarming calls from concerned individuals regarding children riding with impaired drivers." They blame a "general lack of awareness" for the growing problem and believe stiffer penalties need to be placed on the impaired driver when children are involved.
Mary Carberry was given to six years in prison, with two years suspended from the sentence. But her daughter's lawsuit suggests that forgiveness will come at a greater cost, if it comes at all.