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Reckart sued in civil court

Boatwright family seeks compensation

November 21, 2012
By Katie Kuba - Senior Staff Writer ( , The Inter-Mountain

The family of a teenager whose leg had to be amputated due to an injury he suffered during a hunting-related accident last year is suing the Elkins man who allegedly shot the teenager - as well as the man's wife and father.

Randolph County residents Roger Boatwright, his wife Susie Boatwright and their sons, 16-year-old Tanner Boatwright and 19-year-old Christopher Boatwright, are listed as plaintiffs in a catastrophic personal injury complaint filed in Randolph County Circuit Court.

The 16-page complaint - submitted by attorneys James A. Varner and Debra Tedeschi Varner of McNeer, Highland, McMunn and Varner law firm of behalf of the Boatwright family - names Robert L. Reckart Jr., 49; his wife, Gina, 47; and Robert Reckart Sr., the father of Robert Reckart Jr., as co-defendants.

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Roger and Susie Boatwright argue that an injury their son suffered Nov. 25, 2011, was completely preventable because the person who allegedly accidentally shot their son that day - Robert Reckart Jr. - is a convicted felon and was therefore legally forbidden from possessing a firearm. In 1986, Reckart was convicted of cocaine distribution, a felony, which prohibited him from possessing a gun, and his Second Amendment gun ownership rights were never restored, according to court records.

According to the Aug. 21 complaint, Robert Reckart Jr. and his minor son invited Tanner Boatwright and his father, Roger Boatwright, to go deer hunting at the Reckarts' camp at an undisclosed location in Tucker County. When Roger and Tanner Boatwright arrived at the Reckarts' camp, Robert Reckart Jr. asked them to go on a four-wheeler ride around the camp after dark. Roger Boatwright was a reluctant participant, but went along to keep an eye on his son, the complaint states.

Roger and Tanner Boatwright left the Reckarts' camp riding on one side-by-side all-terrain vehicle, while Robert Reckart Jr., his minor son and another minor rode on a second side-by-side all-terrain vehicle, according to the complaint. After riding for some distance, both vehicles came to a stop and all parties dismounted. At that time, Robert Reckart Jr. was allegedly holding a loaded centerfire rifle that did not have the safety on, according to the suit.

As Tanner Boatwright was walking over to stand next to his father, Robert Reckart Jr. allegedly "came forward and negligently, carelessly and recklessly" discharged the firearm, causing a bullet to strike Tanner Boatwright in the leg. The bullet severed his femoral artery, creating a life-threatening situation, the complaint states.

Roger Boatwright drove his son to Davis Memorial Hospital, where he was stabilized before being life-flighted to University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, according to the lawsuit. Once at UPMC, surgeons told Tanner Boatwright's mother, Susie Boatwright, that amputating a portion of her son's leg was the only way to save his life and asked her for permission to perform the surgery, which she ultimately granted.

"Fortunately, Roger Boatwright was able to get Tanner Boatwright to medical assistance in Elkins (and thereafter Pittsburgh by life flight) in time to save his life, but the severity and degree of damage to his leg was such that he ultimately suffered a surgical amputation of the leg above the knee as the only way to save his life," the Boatwrights' attorneys assert in the complaint.

Tanner Boatwright could have died that day, they argue.

"During the ride out (from the Tucker County camp) and thereafter, Tanner Boatwright narrowly escaped death from 'bleeding out' as a result of the massive wound inflicted by the centerfire rifle and the bullet projectile exiting therefrom," the lawsuit states.

The Boatwrights charge the defendants with negligence, negligent entrustment of a firearm and illegal and outrageous use thereof, negligent infliction of emotional distress and loss of child consortium, among other allegations. The complaint argues that Robert Reckart Sr. - the father of Robert Reckart Jr. - breached his duty to supervise the use of the firearm, which he reportedly purchased for his grandson (and Robert Reckart Jr.'s underage son) when the youth was only 8 years old.

Given his grandson's age at the time he purchased the rifle and at the time of the shooting, Robert Reckart Sr. "carelessly and recklessly entrusted the centerfire rifle to a prohibited person, Robert L. Reckart Jr., or to a child under the age of 15 and allowed that entrustment to continue through and until the shooting on Nov. 25, 2011," the complaint states.

The complaint also alleges that negligence of Robert Reckart Jr.'s wife, Gina Reckart, partially contributed to the accident, since she is a co-owner of the real estate on which Tanner Boatwright was shot; as a co-owner, Gina Reckart had a responsibility to ensure the property was reasonably safe, it states.

Gina Reckart also "fully knew of her husband's prior conviction and his use of illegal drugs, as well as his general reckless disregard of the law and irresponsible lifestyle" - but did nothing to prevent him from violating the law by bringing a loaded firearm onto the property the night Tanner Boatwright was shot.

The lawsuit doesn't name a specific figure, but asks for damages in an amount large enough to compensate Tanner Boatwright for past, present and future injuries and exemplary damages "in a constitutional amount sufficient to deter such conduct in the future," claiming Robert Reckart Jr.'s alleged behavior is "a classic example of willful indifference to the laws governing citizens ... of the State of West Virginia and the worst kind of egregious and outrageous misconduct."

The lawsuit also requests that Susie and Roger Boatwright be awarded compensatory damages for the cost of their son's medical bills and the emotional turmoil they experienced during and after the accident. The lawsuit also seeks compensatory damages for the Boatwrights' other son, Christopher Boatwright, for loss of consortium, or the legal right to companionship with his brother, Tanner.

"Throughout their lives, Tanner Boatwright and Christopher Boatwright have bonded over their mutual love and excellence at athletics...," the suit states. "As a result of the shooting, (they) have been deprived of the ability to engage in athletic events together and, in general, have lost consortium with one another..."

Prior to the shooting, Tanner Boatwright was a standout athlete at Elkins High School, having been selected as an all-conference and all-state football player as a sophomore, according to the complaint.

In June, Reckart pleaded guilty to illegally possessing a firearm that accidentally discharged before U.S. Magistrate Judge John Kaull in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia. Reckart is slated to be sentenced in federal court at 11 a.m. Tuesday. He faces a penalty of up to 10 years in federal prison and/or a $250,000 fine, plus up to three years of supervised release.



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