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Spotted Bird Family Awarded $5 Million By Jury

A Fort Peck Tribal Court jury in Poplar awarded $5 million Friday, July 8, to the family of a three-year-old boy killed by an alleged distracted driver. Three-year-old Dwain Spotted Bird Jr. of Poplar died in June 2018 after he was struck and driven over by a pickup as he rode his bicycle in the street outside his grandparents’ home on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation.

The family alleged that the truck driver was distracted, driving on the wrong side of the road, speeding and that he never braked, according to the lawsuit. According to the lawsuit, the driver, Noel Sansaver of Wolf Point, who worked for the Fort Peck Community College at the time, struck the boy and then drove another 94 feet before stopping.

Sansaver was not charged with a crime or issued a traffic citation at the time of the accident.

The six-member jury found that the driver’s negligence caused the death of the boy and awarded the family $3.8 million for wrongful death and $1.2 million in survival damages.

Sansaver’s insurance is responsible for the $5 million award.

The Spotted Bird family was represented by Tyson E. Logan and Sarah A. Kellogg of The Spence Law Firm of Jackson, Wyo., and Terryl T. Matt of Matt Law Offices PLLC of Cut Bank.

Logan said, “The entire community has suffered from Baby Dwain’s tragic death. The family’s loss was hard enough, but the callous defense of this case tested their courage and patience. The defense blamed the family for the boy’s death and they tried to essentially make Baby D invisible — now, he will never be forgotten. We are grateful for the jury’s service and their decision. The verdict gives the family a measure of justice and a path forward to rebuild their lives.”

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