Car wash demise not family's entire mission

Fuller’s Car Wash may be willing to close down to settle a lawsuit over the tragic death of 14-year-old Sean Richards of Hinsdale last summer.

But Sean’s family said there’s more at stake for both loved ones and the village at large than simply shuttering the business.

The latest developments in the matter emerged at Tuesday night’s village board meeting after Sean’s father Brian rose to speak during public comment.

After thanking the village for placing jersey barriers outside the car wash exit to prevent vehicles from entering the sidewalk, Brian asked when new permanent crash-rated bollards procured by the village would be installed.

Village President Tom Cauley said officials were working with an engineer to certify the strength of the bollards.

“I’m making sure we cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s on this,” he stated.

Cauley then asked Richards if the family’s aim was to “shut down Fuller’s.”

“Absolutely,” Brian Richards replied.

Cauley said owner Doug Fuller recently proposed to him the idea of closing the car wash in exchange for the Richards dropping their suit, relating Fuller’s reluctance to pay the considerable cost of installing the bollards if the business could ultimately be forced to cease operations.

“To the extent that the business is shut down, why should we spend $100,000 to install the bollards?” posed Cauley, summarizing Fuller’s position. “It seems to me it’s entirely within your power to close down that car wash and have something else there.”

Sean was struck and killed last July 17 when a vehicle exiting the car wash accelerated onto the sidewalk where he was walking. The vehicle then proceeded into Fontano’s Subs across Lincoln Street, injuring three patrons.

After asserting that a village board meeting was not the forum to negotiate a civil lawsuit, Richards articulated that the family’s legal action, which was filed in December, has several goals.

“Our primary objectives are the truth, accountability and public safety,” Brian said, suggesting that the suit could drag on for years and noting his own conversations with Doug Fuller.

Cauley pressed Richards on the opportunity to replace the car wash with an enterprise that could be considered a safer use.

“You could settle it tomorrow,” Cauley remarked.

While such a deal would promote public safety, Brian countered, it would be insufficient.

“We could let them get away without the truth. There would be no accountability,” he said. “A child was killed.

“Why don’t they shut it down first and then we can talk?” he added.

Lauri Aldrich of Western Springs then spoke about an accident in May of 2022 when one vehicle exiting the car wash was hit from behind by another car wash vehicle causing it to proceed across Lincoln Street and into Aldrich’s parked car. She said an account of the incident at the May 23 village board inaccurately represented that the day was rainy, the car wash was closed at the time and the vehicles’ engines were off.

“The crash was caused by the negligence of a Fuller’s employee,” Aldrich said, citing other documented accidents at the site with seemingly no subsequent village action taken. “Doing nothing was grossly negligent and extremely reckless, and no amount of data will excuse that.”

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean