BAY MINETTE—The husbands of two women killed in a multi-vehicle crash on Interstate 65 more than three years ago have reached a settlement with a trucking company that employed the driver believed to have started the pileup.
Lawyers agreed upon the undisclosed amount a few days before the civil lawsuit was scheduled to go to trial this week, according to Montgomery attorney Cole Portis, who represents the plaintiffs.
Shortly after the Dec. 11, 2002, crash, Jimmy Miller, of Clanton, and James Belcher, of Auburn, who acted as administrators of their wives’ estates, brought the wrongful death suit against Georgia-based Phoenix Diversified Corp.
Defense attorney Allan Chason, who represented the trucking company, also declined to comment on the terms but said his client was pleased with the agreement.
“We were happy that we were able to get it settled in the way that everybody was satisfied with,” he said. “We’re just happy that this sad chapter is over.”
The two northern Alabama nurses, Betty Joyce Miller and Linda Cook Belcher, were killed while headed to a conference in Mobile when they came upon an Alabama Department of Transportation crew clearing wreckage from a crash the day before, police said at the time.
Traffic had been slowed, but the driver of a 1999 Volvo tractor-trailer, Otis Schofill Jr., “for whatever reason never hit the brakes,” plaintiffs’ attorney Jere Beasley said.
Schofill, 60, of Georgia was not wearing a seat belt and was killed as well.
Traveling at a speed of 70 to 80 miles per hour, the tractor-trailer plowed into the rear of a blue 2000 Ford Taurus, which Miller was driving with Belcher as her passenger, plaintiffs’ attorneys have said.
The Taurus rear-ended a pickup truck that was pulling a cattle trailer, State Troopers said at the time. That crash killed two cows.
Police said both the pickup and the Taurus then hit a flatbed tractor-trailer, and Schofill’s rig hit two more tractor-trailers before coming to a stop on the shoulder of the road.
A seventh vehicle, a red Pontiac Grand Am with six passengers, also was struck in the course of the accident, according to troopers. Four other people were injured in the crash, and the entanglement closed several miles of the interstate for more than four hours, according to reports.
Crash killed two north Alabama women and Georgia truck driver in 2002
The plaintiffs’ lawyers did not ask for monetary damages in the original complaint and Portis declined this week to reveal any details about the settlement, which would be completed in the next 30 days.
“It’s hard to put a monetary amount on two women who’ve been married to their husbands for 40 years,” Portis said.
Portis said he believed Schofill had fallen asleep at the wheel. The truck driver had suffered a shoulder injury but didn’t take the necessary precautions before driving and had little sleep the night before the crash, Portis said.
“What little sleep he did have was bad sleep because of the bad shoulder, and he probably shouldn’t have been on the road,” he said.