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Goshen family sues over fatal Newport crash

The family of a Goshen, N.H., teacher who died in a two-car collision in downtown Newport in 2010 has sued two auto parts dealers, claiming a defective part caused another vehicle to accelerate uncontrollably and slam into her minivan.

Law enforcement officials concluded that an improperly installed air-intake assembly caused a Dodge Durango driven by Melinda Leno, of Newport, to accelerate out of control and kill Vicky Goss, 44, and seriously injure her son and mother, who were passengers in Goss’ Dodge Caravan. The lawsuit, filed recently in Sullivan County Superior Court, alleges that two California companies failed to offer instructions for installing the air-intake assembly.

Leno, 37, was seriously injured and her 3-year-old son suffered minor injuries in the October 2010 crash.

A police investigation concluded that the collision was caused by a stuck accelerator in Leno’s Durango — a misplaced clamp in the air-intake assembly had prevented the throttle from closing properly. The Sullivan County Attorney’s Office declined to file charges against Leno, citing the defective equipment.

The lawsuit piggybacks on those findings and asks for unspecified damages from Car Part Outlet and Bomz Racing Inc., which the lawsuit claims manufactured and sold the air intake kit that was installed in Leno’s Durango.

The Goss family’s lawsuit alleges 20 counts, including negligence, wrongful death and breach of warranty.

“The product contained unreasonably dangerous defects in that it was not accompanied by installation instructions for safe use, subjecting Vicky Goss to grave risk and harm,” lawyers alleged in a 33-page filing.

According to the California Secretary of State’s Office, Bomz Racing Inc., has dissolved and Car Parts Outlet is not a registered entity.

A telephone number at Bomz Racing’s listed address has been disconnected.

Attorneys for the Goss family, Michael Thornton and Joseph Donohue, of Boston, did not respond to a message seeking comment yesterday.

The companies have not filed any responses in court.

On Oct. 14, 2010, Goss, an elementary school teacher at Goshen-Lempster School, was driving a Dodge Caravan to Newport Middle High School to watch her daughter play a soccer game. With Goss was her son, Alex, 17, and her mother, Henrietta Hodgman, 63.

Goss was driving north on Main Street shortly before 4 p.m. when Leno, driving east, slammed into the driver’s side of Goss’ vehicle, at the intersection of Elm and South Main streets.

Leno tried to stop — witnesses told police they smelled burning brakes and saw her take evasive action. Leno told authorities she tried to avoid the collision. Police said she had run a red light while out of control in the moments before the crash.

According to police, Leno’s boyfriend improperly installed a modification to the air-intake system, causing the accelerator to malfunction. The boyfriend, Michael Maloney, was not named in the lawsuit. He could not be reached for comment.

Aftermarket intake systems are said to boost engine efficiency and performance.

Hodgman, who suffered multiple fractures, Alex Goss, who suffered a traumatic brain injury, and Stuart Goss, Vicky Goss’ husband and executor of her estate, are the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Stuart Goss did not respond to a message yesterday.

Mark Davis can be reached at mcdavis@vnews.com or 603-727-3304.