The U.S. government will pay $45,000 to a man who was hit by a car driven by an Ellsworth Air Force Base employee in 2016.

While the federal government agreed to pay Rodney Kraft, it did not admit any liability or fault for the accident and won't pay court and attorney fees, according to the federal settlement agreement reached last week. 

"The government's attorney was very cooperative, and I am pleased that we were able to get it resolved," said John Burke, Kraft's lawyer. Burke said the Ellsworth employee who hit his client works in law enforcement at the base and was driving a security vehicle at the time. 

Kraft was working for BH Services Inc. — a Black Hills Works affiliate that provides rehabilitation and employment for disabled people — when he was hit by the Ellsworth employee while  walking across a parking lot at the base on Oct. 18, 2016, according to court filings by the government and Burke. 

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Kraft couldn't walk after he fell, hit his head on the pavement, and injured his left foot and ankle, so he was taken by the base's ambulance service to the Rapid City hospital, Burke wrote in the October 2018 lawsuit against the U.S. Government, Department of Defense and Air Force. The accident created physical pain, mental anguish and medical bills, and will continue to do so in the future, he wrote. 

Burke wrote that the employee failed to keep a proper lookout and yield to Kraft and that the Air Force was negligent to hire the driver. He asked for the defendants to pay Kraft $55,000 and cover court and attorney fees. Burke did not want to comment on his client's specific injuries and personal details.

The U.S. government admitted in its response to the lawsuit that Kraft was hit by the Ellsworth employee while walking across the entry to a parking lot. The government denied that the driver acted negligently and that it was liable for the driver's actions. 

The "law does not allow us to share further details of the underlying incident itself without a release from the Air Force employee," Ellsworth spokesman Lt. Joshua Sinclair said when asked about the driver's job title and if any disciplinary measures were taken. 

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— Contact Arielle Zionts at arielle.zionts@rapidcityjournal.com

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