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Electric company settles wrongful death claim in Laclede County, Missouri

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$1.6 million settlement

  • Venue: Laclede County Circuit Court
  • Case Number/Date: 09LA-CC00124/Aug. 18,2011
  • Judge: Kevin Schehr
  • Insurer: Bituminous Insurance Co.
  • Caption: Kathy C. Bates and Jon F. Collier v. John 0. Pettyjohn, Consolidated Electric Service and Alan Smith, Matthew C. Price
  • Plaintiffs’ Attorney: Gary L. Smith, Smith & Gilley, Lebanon; Matthew C. Price, Price & Randle, Osage Beach
  • Defendants’ Attorney: Robert T. Plunkert and Lawrence B. Grebel,  Brown & James, St. Louis


Family alleged earlier crash caused woman’s death

Special to Missouri Lawyers Weekly

The family of a 67-year-old Lebanon grandmother who died after medical complications following a 2006 car crash has settled a wrongful death suit against the other driver and his employer for $1.6 million, the family’s lawyers said.

Laura Collier was a passenger in a van driven by her husband, Jon, when a Consolidated Electric Service truck struck their van on Missouri 5 in northern Laclede County on Nov. 29, 2006, the plaintiffs alleged.

Laura Collier used a wheelchair before the crash and had numerous medical conditions, including congestive heart failure, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, said one of her family’s attorneys, Matthew Price. She also periodically relied on oxygen tanks to help her breathe, though she wasn’t using one at the time of the crash.

After the collision, Collier was trapped beneath the vehicle for an hour and had to be extracted, the attorney said. She broke both her arms and lost a substantial amount of blood.

Collier’s condition worsened over the next several months, as she shuttled between hospitals, rehabilitation centers and nursing homes, Price said.

Collier developed a post-surgical staph infection 45 days after her initial hospitalization, he said. She died on June 1, 2007, and her husband and adult daughter filed suit on Nov. 30, 2009.

Jon Collier was not seriously injured in the crash, which Price said occurred as John Pettyjohn was maneuvering the electric company vehicle into a driveway off the state highway.

Defense attorney Lawrence Grebel, of Brown & James, couldn’t be reached for comment by press time.

The suit, filed by attorney Gary L. Smith before Price joined the case last May, named Pettyjohn, Consolidated Electric Service and company owner Alan Smith as defendants.

Price said the lawsuit stalled over the defense’s contention that Collier’s numerous pre-existing health problems caused her death, rather than the crash.

"Defense counsel was adamant that she had too many prior health problems," Price said. "There was no give."

Three months after Price joined Smith as co-counsel, the defendants agreed to settle, with Collier’s adult daughter, Kathy C. Bates, receiving $1.25 million and Jon Collier the remaining $350,000, Price said. Consolidated Electric Service’s insurance policy covered the claim.

Online court records show that Pettyjohn was charged with a moving violation after the collision but ultimately pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of failing to properly attach a muffler, paying a total of $200 in court costs and a fine. MO

"Defense counsel was adamant that she had too many prior health problems. There was no give."
Matthew C. Price, plaintiff’s attorney


Awarded: $1.6 Million

Please remember that each case is different.  Past successes afford no guarantee of future results.  Every case is different and must be judged on its own merits.

Matthew C. Price
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