Attorneys for Michael Willis of Eufaula, husband of the late Karla Willis, recently settled a wrongful death claim against Columbus Paper Company, Inc. for $5.98 million.
Willis, who was 45 years old, was on her way to Auburn when she was killed in a tragic accident on August 19, 2001, on highway 169 in Lee County. She died in a Columbus, GA, hospital a short time after her 1998 Toyota was struck by a Freightliner cargo truck on the rural roadway.
State troopers said Willis was traveling north and the truck, driven by Sammy Lee Butler of Columbus, was traveling south. According to Lee County Coroner Bill Harris, Butler ran off the road and over-corrected, losing control of the truck. The truck crossed both lanes of traffic, hitting Willis almost head-on, Harris said. He said it appeared she was trying to avoid the truck. Reports said Willis died of blunt force trauma.
Attorneys for the plaintiff said the state trooper’s report on the accident said Butler admitted having taken medication that day, and that cold and sinus medications were found in the truck. According to the plaintiff’s attorneys, Butler had been treated a week earlier for bronchitis, and days before the accident complained of fatigue, fever and chills.
Among the allegations supporting the plaintiff’s charge of negligence and wantonness on the part of COPACO were that Butler was taking an antibiotic, an antihistamine, a nasal spray and prednisone at the time and should not have been operating a large truck while on medications.
The settlement was reported in the most recent edition of The Jere Beasley Report.
Attorneys representing Willis were Julie Beasley of Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles of Montgomery and Jimmy Calton and Jim Calton, Jr. of Eufaula.
Beasley said Monday a settlement is pending with Willis’ insurance company USAA.