Over $975 Million in Verdicts and Recoveries Over $975 Million in Verdicts and Recoveries
Charges Filed in Fiery Crash
STEVE ROCK
The Kansas City Star
6/30/2006

The driver of a tractor-trailer who authorities say triggered a fiery crash on Interstate 70 was charged Thursday with four counts of second-degree involuntary manslaughter.

The Caldwell County prosecutor filed charges against George Albright, 61, after a Missouri Highway Patrol investigation into the accident that killed four Kansas City women, all of whom were related. The charges claim Albright did not slow down significantly before rear ending the women’s car.

Albright, reached Thursday afternoon at his Clarksville, Tenn., home said: “I’d like to express my sorrow to the families and loved ones of the ladies who lost their lives, but my attorneys said for me not to comment.”

Also on Thursday, Roy Gibbs, the husband of victim Anita Gibbs, filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Callaway County Circuit Court against Albright and eight other defendants.

One of the defendants was the estate of Beverly Garrett, the driver of the vehicle and Gibbs’ aunt; though an attorney said she was named only as a legal strategy. In addition to Garrett, the victims of the June 1 accident were Garrett’s niece, Gibbs, who was principal of Askew Elementary School in Kansas City; Garrett’s mother, Beulah Hunter; and Garrett’s aunt, Elois Jeans. Garret was head of the local federal government employees union.

The four women were headed to Kankakee, Ill., for a family member’s wedding anniversary.

Attorneys for Albright and other defendants couldn’t be reached for comment.

Robert Sterner, the Caldwell County prosecuting attorney, said Albright is due in court July 7.

The accident occurred about 30 miles east of Columbia.

According to the probable-cause statement, Albright “drove his loaded tractor trailer unit into the back of congested traffic” on a straight stretch of road that had good visibility. Warning signs were posted and a flagman with the Department of Transportation warned drivers of the congestion up ahead, the statement said. Albright said he had seen the flagman and slowed down, according to the statement, which was written by a state trooper who assisted in the investigation.

“Evidence at the scene indicated (Albright) had not slowed significantly prior to impact,” the probable-cause statement said, “…There were no skid marks from Albright’s vehicle prior to the initial impact.”

The wrongful death lawsuit was the first one filed in connection with the accident. Among the lawsuit’s allegations were that Albright “negligently and carelessly violated the rules of the road by failing to slow for traffic,” followed Garrett’s vehicle too closely and drove at an excessive speed. The lawsuit said Albright’s vehicle collided into the rear of Garrett’s car and that Gibbs “was killed as a direct and proximate result” of Albright’s negligence.

Garrett, according to the lawsuit, failed to keep a careful lookout, slowed without adequate warning and knew or should have known to stop, swerve or sound a warning but failed to do so.

Garrett was only named as a tactical measure to engage her insurance company’s lawyers, said Gary Robb, the Kansas City attorney who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Roy Gibbs.

“All of these defendants are going to claim that it was Beverly Garrett’s fault,” Robb said.

By naming her as a defendant, he said, her insurance company’s lawyers will argue that it wasn’t.

He said that the decision to name her was difficult but that there is no family animosity.

But Ken McClain, an attorney representing Garrett’s three children, said, “The family is grieving. To now be sued is not a welcome development.” McClain said he hadn’t seen the lawsuit but stressed that, “There is no evidence that Beverly Garrett had anything to do with this accident.”

Another named defendant was Trucker’s Plus HR Inc., a driver leasing company in Tennessee for whom Albright was working, and a Nevada company that owns Trucker’s Plus. The remaining defendants were companies that were involved with leasing the truck or the trailer.

An official with Trucker’s Plus, reached Thursday evening by phone, had no comment.

Robb, the attorney for Gibbs’ husband, Roy, said Roy Gibbs took little comfort in the criminal charges being filed.

“He wished it had never been necessary,” Robb said.

Robb said Roy Gibbs knows the civil suit would not bring his wife back.

“But by moving forward, he hopes to – even in a small way – elevate truck safety in this country so perhaps some other family won’t have to suffer as he has,” Robb said.

 




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Personal injury is an area of law that pertains to the injury of an individual. Both physical and emotional injuries fall into this branch of tort law. A personal injury lawyer is generally involved in cases where an injury has occurred due to the negligence of another party.

Examples of cases that a personal injury lawyer in Kansas City, Missouri can assist with include workplace accidents, falling or other accidents in the home, premises liability, defective and hazardous product cases, and dental and medical malpractice cases. If negligence on behalf of another party can be proved in court, compensation may be awarded.

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Wrongful death falls under the common law jurisdictions wherein a person may be held liable for a death. It is important to note that wrongful death is the only course of legal action in which a company, rather than an individual, is at fault for a death.

In Kansas City, Missouri, cases involving wrongful death accidents require a preponderance of evidence as the standard of proof. Generally, the suit is filed by close relatives.

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