The parents of two children killed in 2020 when a driver veered off the road into a Panama City Beach, Fla. mini-golf course have filed a lawsuit after the driver was not charged in connection with the deaths of their son and daughter.
Morgan & Morgan, the law firm representing Lauren and Matt Kirchgessner, filed the complaint in Bay County, Fla., on Feb. 7.
The attorneys argue that the family physician for the driver, Scott Donaldson, along with the bar Donaldson owns were negligent. According to the suit, Donaldson’s seizures, believed to be caused by his alleged struggles with alcoholism and withdrawal, could have been avoided and thus never caused the fatal crash in the first place.
On Dec. 4, 2020, Addie Kirchgessner, 6, and Baylor Kirchgessner, 4, were playing mini-golf with their parents at Coconut Creek Family Fun Park in Panama City Beach, Fla. while on vacation from their home in Louisville, Ky., according to a press release from Morgan & Morgan attorneys Jack T. Cook and Clay Townsend.
Suddenly, a Chevy Silverado driven by Donaldson left the road and crashed through a fence and into the park, striking and killing both Addie and Baylor as their parents looked on.
After a lengthy-investigation, State Attorney Larry Basford announced in Jan. 2022 that he declined to press charges, determining Donaldson had no alcohol in his system but had an epileptic seizure behind the wheel that caused the deadly crash, showing no criminal intent.
The complaint alleges that Donaldson had five previous crashes caused by alcohol-related seizures. Matt and Lauren Kirchgessner said during a Feb. 8 press conference that nothing was done to prevent a fatal crash from happening again.
Now, The Kirchgessner family is seeking at least $50,000 in damages for the tragedy.
“We shouldn’t be here. We should be home with our children having dinner, doing homework, and reading bedtime stories,” Lauren told the media, reading from a prepared statement.
“We believe that multiple people could have prevented this tragedy, and we never want this to happen to another family. The doctor needs to be held accountable for the decisions he made that we believe led to our children’s tragic deaths, and we call on everyone to take responsibility for keeping dangerous drivers off the road,” the statement continued.
According to medical records cited in the suit, Donaldson had allegedly been prescribed several medications for a seizure disorder that multiple doctors allegedly attributed to severe alcoholism and alcohol withdrawal.
The complaint alleges that Tim M. Smith signed off Donaldson’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) documents on two occasions — once in 2017 and again in 2019 — that allowed Donaldson to keep his driver’s license despite being hospitalized at least 12 times for seizures and allegedly being involved in previous crashes.
Dr. Smith, according to the complaint, downplayed Donaldson’s alleged alcoholism, despite the opinions of several other doctors who had treated him, and allegedly concealed how it was affecting Donaldson’s health and the efficacy of his anti-seizure medications. During the press conference, the attorneys claimed that Dr. Smith allegedly blamed Donaldson’s health on an “electrolyte imbalance.”
“Dr. Smith was allegedly presented with two separate chances to protect Florida’s residents and visitors by taking Mr. Donaldson off the roads. If he had done his duty to protect his patient and the public, Addie and Baylor might still be with us today,” attorneys Cook and Townsend said in the release.
Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Sign up for PEOPLE’s free True Crime newsletter for breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases.
The suit also mentions Billy’s Oyster Bar, a Panama City Beach establishment owned by Donaldson. In the years leading up to the deadly crash, Donaldson allegedly frequented the bar, and while there, he was served “copious amounts of alcohol despite the staff’s knowledge that he had significant struggles with alcohol that resulted in multiple car crashes,” the lawyers said in a news release.
PEOPLE was unable to determine if Smith, Billy’s Oyster Bar, or Donaldson had obtained attorneys who could respond to the allegations.
Turning Tragedy into Positive Action
Shortly after the deaths of their children, Matt and Lauren Kirchgessner turned their grief into positive action by launching a foundation in their names of their son and daughter. The Addie and Baylor Kirchgessner Foundation is “dedicated to providing children access to rich, diverse, and interesting books to help them grow and foster a passion for reading,” its website says.
The couple tells PEOPLE they work with Norton Children’s Hospital in Louisville, where every child up to age of 5, receives a book when they visit their doctor for a wellness check. The foundation also currently has a partnership with the education publishing company Scholastic, through which they hold several book fairs in schools across the country.
During the Wednesday press conference, the Kirchgessners also revealed that they are expecting a new baby.
“It’s pretty emotional,” Lauren tells PEOPLE. “I’m very grateful and thankful for me to be able to be pregnant again. We’re happy, we’re excited, we’re anxious.”
“But in the same instance, just like a lot of things in life, they’re bittersweet,” Matt added. “Because as excited as we are, to have Poppi here in a month, we know that there’s part of this that… you know she’s here because Addie and Baylor aren’t.”
The couple tells PEOPLE that while they wish they could see what Addie and Baylor would look and act like now, they are keeping the children’s memories alive for their baby.
“Poppi will know how sweet, caring, and loving her big brother and big sister are,” Matt said.
The Kirchgessners are expected to welcome their daughter, Poppi, on March 18.