In March, this blog posted about Leon Thurman, a 70 year old respected member of his Georgia community who was killed in a late night car accident by Varnell police officer James Smith. He was delivering newspapers at the time, something he did every day of the year except Christmas. At the time of his death, Mr. Thurman’s family was not at all satisfied with the initial police report, which did not indicate the speeds the two cars were going at the time of the crash. Mr. Thurman’s son noted that when you see the crash photos of the charred, crumpled Neon, “there’s no way he wasn’t speeding,” referring to Officer Smith. Parts of the Neon melted in the resulting fire and skid marks were easily visible.
This week, it was disclosed in news reports that the Thurman family has settled with the City of Varnell over Mr. Thurman’s death. The settlement is for an undisclosed amount of money, but the Thurman’s attorney told reporters it was “substantial.” The Georgia wrongful death lawsuit claimed that Officer Smith was travelling at an excess of 90 miles an hour at the time, more than twice the speed limit. Officer Smith’s wasn’t on call in his police duties and he did not have his blue lights on at the time of the accident. The Thurman family, namely his widow Virginia Thurman and daughter Melissa Trammell, asked for $750,000 in their wrongful death suit filed in the Whitfield Superior Court.
According to reports from Mr. Thurman’s old employer, the Dalton Daily Citizen, a written statement from the attorneys explained, “Varnell Mayor Dan Peeples indicated that the city regrets the family’s loss and hopes the resolution of this case will help bring some closure, both for them and for the officer involved, who he said is very remorseful.” District Attorney Bert Poston, who could not comment on criminal charges against Officer Smith, said he is still reviewing evidence before deciding whether to pursue criminal charges against Officer Smith.
Officials now agree he was speeding and violating several department policies at the time of the crash. “We’re going to schedule a meeting with the victim’s family at some point before we make a final decision,” Poston said.
Mrs. Thurman said that she is just glad this civil case is over for her and her daughter’s sake. Their daughter Melissa said, “If nothing else, hopefully this case has brought some attention to the need for all emergency personnel to drive cautiously, in keeping with their training, even in the middle of the night. We can’t bring Daddy back, but hopefully this won’t happen again.”
This case is a tragic testament to the various forms that neglect can take–even involving officers of the law acting inappropriately and causing immense harm. When a loved one passes away as a result of the misconduct of others, a Georgia wrongful death lawsuit is often appropriate. If you or someone in your family needs legal assistance from injuries or death resulting from a car accident, the experienced attorneys at Sammons & Carpenter, PC can help determine if you have a case and how to proceed with legal avenues.
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