On August 23, 2009, Bryan Lee decided to test-drive a new car. He went to Commonwealth Dodge on Preston Highway in Louisville, Kentucky with his brother and asked to test-drive a new Dodge Challenger. The two brothers left the dealership in the car with salesman Sayed Ghafoori. While driving on Fern Valley Road, Mr. Lee dramatically increased the speed of the vehicle and crashed into a Mercury Sable, killing both occupants.
During the trial, Mr. Lee showed little or no remorse until the sentencing, blaming everyone else for what happened, and he stated he was only going 60 mph, which is still above the posted 45 mph limit on Fern Valley Road. According to the vehicle's black box, which records data on the vehicle while it is being driven, the car had been going 102 mph just before the accident.
Almost exactly two years after the crash, a jury found Mr. Lee guilty of second degree manslaughter in the fatal car accident and recommended a five-year sentence for each death to run concurrently, with a possibility of parole in one year, after 20 percent of his sentence is served. On October 21, 2011, Judge Barry Willett confirmed the five-year sentence, denying the defendant's request for probation.
Both sides had differing stories regarding Sayed Ghafoori, the salesman in the car, during the test drive. Mr. Lee testified that Mr. Ghafoori had encouraged him to go faster, telling him to "hit it." In a statement released to the press, Commonwealth Dodge said "Mr. Lee was in no way encouraged to break the law by our salesman, whose life was also in jeopardy during these events, and who incurred injuries in this needless accident." Investigations into Mr. Ghafoori's background have found that he was charged with speeding six times, at one point going 34 mph over the speed limit. These findings do not make Mr. Lee any less guilty since he should have used his own common sense even if he was encouraged to speed by the salesman. However, a case could be made that the salesman is partially responsible for the accident.
The car dealership may be at fault in this accident as well. Mr. Ghafoori's driving record should have been taken into account before he was allowed to take customers for test drives. After the crash occurred, an anonymous man saw the news reports and contacted a Louisville television station to tell his experience with Commonwealth Dodge. He stated that during a test drive of a car from the same dealership he was encouraged to test the speed of the car. He did not wish to be identified on the news, but said he would be willing to testify if necessary.
This anonymous statement brings up the possibility that Mr. Lee was actually encouraged to speed by the salesman and that this is not the first time this has occurred within the dealership. Both of these pieces of information could make a case that the dealership should be held partially responsible for the accident.
This was a tragedy for both the victims and their family and Mr. Lee, whose life will forever be changed by one very bad decision. Perhaps it will change the procedures for test-driving vehicles in Louisville, which now are determined by the individual dealership according to the Greater Louisville Automobile Dealers Association. For now, it not only illustrates that excessive speed can be dangerous, but also that more than one individual or entity may be responsible in an accident. It is important to contact a Kentucky car accident law firm such as Miller & Falkner to determine what action can be taken if you are involved in an accident.
Dealership releases statement after fatal test drive crash; salesperson in car has several speeding arrests and felony convictions; whas11.com; August 25, 2009
Man Charged In Fatal Test Drive Pleads Not Guilty; wlky.com; Carissa Lawson; August 23, 2009
After deadly test drive crash, another man claims a dealer encouraged him to go fast during test drive; whas11.com; August 24, 2009
Jury Recommends Minimum Sentence In Test-Drive Crash Case; wlky.com; August 26, 2011