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$900,000 Settlement Collected in Wrongful Death Auto Case

Type of action: Wrongful death
Injuries alleged: Death
Name of case: Confidential
Court: Greene County Superior Court
Case number: Confidential
Tried before judge or jury: Judge
Name of judge: N/A
Special damages: Funeral expenses (deceased mother, $6,493; deceased passenger, $5,558) and medical expenses (deceased passenger, $1,327)
Verdict or settlement: Settlement
Amount: $900,000
Settlement date: April 29, 2007
Offer: N/A
Experts: Ron Kirk, Research Engineers, Inc., Raleigh; Paul Paxton, Truck RX, Inc., Pensacola, Fla.; Paul Olson, Human Factors Expert, Ann Arbor, Mich.
Insurer: Canal Insurance Company
Plaintiff’s attorneys: Robert E. Whitley and Paul A. Rodgman of Whitley Law Firm, KinstonSubmitted by: Alicia Delamere

Description: The wreck in this case occurred on the morning of Dec. 3, 2003, on a two-lane road in Greene County. The decedent mother was traveling east in her sedan vehicle when the defendant truck driver backed his tractor-trailer onto the same highway from his residential driveway, the plaintiff’s report said.

The decedent and a passenger, her 6-year-old child, were killed in the wreck.
The decedent’s estate filed wrongful death claims, alleging the defendant was negligent in backing onto the highway to his right instead of his left, failing to use a spotter, blocking the highway and backing to his blind side.

The defendant truck driver filed an answer, alleging contributory negligence and a cross-claim. The defendant trucking company hired expert accident investigators, who were on the scene within three hours of the accident. The plaintiff retained an expert to investigate as well.
An issue arose concerning the sun and its effect on the decedent’s vision. The plaintiff hired a human factors expert who had retired from General Motors for this issue.

The case was mediated twice, and the parties met an impasse both times. An offer of $600,000 was filed in late 2006. A second offer of $750,000 was filed in April 2007.

In addition to alleging contributory negligence, the defense said both decedents (mother and son) were survived only by the administrator of the estate, the decedent’s mother and passenger’s grandmother. There were no other heirs, and there was no economic loss.

Other issues were the health condition of the decedent and the fact that the child-passenger was riding in the front seat. The plaintiff’s truck-driving expert was prepared to testify on numerous violations of safety rules and regulations that the defendant truck driver allegedly committed.
The case was set for a two-week session in June in Greene County Superior Court.

One week prior to trial, the defendant insurance company made an offer of $900,000. There was a total of $1 million in insurance coverage, but the defendant did not have assets from which to satisfy an excess judgment, the plaintiff’s report said. The plaintiff demanded the full coverage but elected to accept the $900,000 offer in view of the added expenses of litigation, which would include transportation and witness fees for the various experts.

It was concluded that it would be in the plaintiff’s best interests to settle rather than go forward with trial.