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Suit involving fatal crash moves to federal court

by Lynn LaRowe | July 9, 2017 at 4:35 a.m. | Updated July 9, 2017 at 4:30 a.m.
A wreck occurred on the southbound lane of Interstate 49 about 11:45 p.m. Monday, Dec. 21, 2015, near Fouke, Ark. According to Lt. Brady Gore of Arkansas State Police Troop G, said a tractor-trailer slowed in dense fog. The truck was struck from behind. Then, the driver of a Conway tractor trailer was struck and killed after stepping out of the vehicle. The accident killed three people, wrecked 10 cars on the southbound side of I-49 and three trucks on the northbound side, and 10 people were taken to CHRISTUS St. Michael Health System and Wadley Regional Medical Center. State police and emergency workers were still investigating and clearing the scene Tuesday morning.

A lawsuit concerning a fatal collision on Interstate 49 in Fouke, Ark., in December 2015 has been moved from state court in Miller County, Ark., to a Texarkana federal court.

Dennis James Hyman Jr., 53, of Fouke was among the fatalities listed in Arkansas State Police fatal crash summaries following a series of chain reaction crashes shortly before midnight Dec. 21, 2015. Dennis Hyman's widow, Lauren Hyman, filed suit in Miller County in May with the help of Texarkana lawyer Chad Trammell against Livingston Trucking and Livingston trucking driver David Kenneth Campbell.

The suit alleges Campbell is guilty of negligence for stopping in the middle of the roadway without warning, causing Hyman to hit him from behind with force great enough to sling him to the ground outside. However, in other sections of the Hyman complaint, Campbell is accused of failing to drive at a speed no greater than reasonable under the circumstances. The complaint alleges the crashes occurred in an area prior to a construction zone where two lanes of traffic were merging into one.

Livingston Trucking's lawyer, Staci Dumas Carson of Little Rock, filed a motion asking that the plaintiffs file a more definite statement at the same time they removed the case from state to federal court.

"Plaintiff's factual allegations are inaccurate and inconsistent," states a brief filed by the defense. "Defendants cannot discern from them what it is plaintiff is contending they did wrong."

According to earlier reports and to the state police crash summaries, dense fog contributed to the crash, which involved six different vehicles including Dennis Hyman's Ford van and Campbell's tractor trailer. The defendant's response contends that the Hyman complaint incorrectly alleges the crash occurred in a construction zone or in merging traffic. The defense's response alleges the accident report states Hyman was pinned inside his van, not slung to the ground as alleged in the complaint.

The defense alleges Campbell slowed down because he could not see due to the thick fog and that Dennis Hyman crashed into him. A third vehicle, a Pontiac, struck both Campbell's big rig and Dennis Hyman's van, according to the ASP crash summaries. A fourth car, an SUV, struck Dennis Hyman's van, while two additional cars hit Campbell's truck. In all, six vehicles were involved in the pile-up. Hyman and the driver of a Ford, which also struck Campbell's truck, were killed.

A third death related to the crash occurred when Terry Bailey of Huntington, Ark., got out of his truck and proceeded on foot to warn approaching drivers of the pile-up ahead of them. Bailey was fatally struck by a passing Chevy Malibu.

The case has been assigned to U.S. District Judge Susan Hickey in the Texarkana Division of the Western District of Arkansas. No hearings are currently scheduled.

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