On September 13, 2012, a Lee County jury found in favor of an Auburn area teacher who was seriously injured in a collision that occurred on South College Street at the intersection of South Donohue Drive in Auburn, Alabama. The jury awarded Mrs. Frankie Bell $550,000 in compensatory damages and $150,000 in punitive damages. On November 5, 2010, Defendant Mark Sawyer, age 60, was operating a motor vehicle in the left lane on South College Street at 5:45 a.m. when he hit Dr. Marie Wooten and Frankie Bell in the designated crosswalk. Dr. Wooten died on the scene. Mrs. Bell suffered severe and permanent injuries. Julie Beasley, a lawyer with the Montgomery-based law firm Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles, P.C., along with Wes McCollum, a lawyer with McCollum & Wilson in Auburn, represented Mrs. Bell.
This intersection was well lit. Defendant Sawyer could see the intersection from 200 yards away. At trial, Defendant Sawyer admitted that he was setting his cruise control when he hit both women in the crosswalk. Sawyer admitted that he saw both women, yet never applied his brakes. He continued driving his car for more than 50 yards after the impact. The law in Alabama requires that every driver of a vehicle exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian. Mr. Sawyer did nothing to avoid hitting them. The jury found Mr. Sawyer’s conduct was both negligent and wanton.
“Dr. Wooten and Frankie Bell were more than halfway through the crosswalk when Sawyer hit them. Mr. Sawyer could have avoided this tragic and deadly collision if he was paying attention,” Beasley said.
Prior to the collision, Mrs. Bell worked as a Loachapoka High School math teacher and was a doctoral student at Auburn University’s College of Education’s educational leadership program. She is now teaching math at Lafayette High School. She and her husband, Felix Bell, live in Opelika and have five children. The complaint (CV-2010-900574.00) was filed December 30, 2010, in the Circuit Court for Lee County, Alabama.
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