Family awarded $5 million in damages

The family of a Blount County woman, who was killed in an October 2010 vehicle accident, was awarded $5 million in damages after a jury ruled the wreck was the fault of the driver, Lewis Hill, and his employer, SMF Energy Corporation, according to Blount County court records.

According to Bob Austin, local attorney and counsel for the case, Stephanie McCoy was a passenger in a vehicle driven by Briana McCombs. The two friends were driving back to Alabama from Virginia after visiting friends. In South Carolina, McCoy was asleep in the front passenger seat when McCombs began following an 18-wheeler in the left lane of a four-lane road, says Austin.

While the 18-wheeler drifted into the right lane, McCombs, who had her vehicle on cruise control, followed behind. However, the driver of the truck in front of her quickly veered back into the left lane to avoid colliding with a fuel truck, driven by Hill, which was going at low speed with no flashers on a dark highway traveling uphill, according to the plaintiffs.

With little warning, McCombs saw the truck driven by Hill in front of her and was unable to dodge it, striking the rear of the fuel truck with the right front side of her vehicle where McCoy was seated, according to Austin. The impact killed McCoy.

According to the plaintiffs in the case, the fuel truck was traveling at a speed under the 45 mph minimum with no flashers. Lead attorney for the plaintiff, Perry Shuttlesworth, found the reasoning for the fuel truck’s reduced speed could have been the engine.

According to Austin, Shuttlesworth had discovered three months prior to the accident, the truck had been taken for mechanical work and the company had been told the engine either needed to be replaced or repaired.

The plaintiffs claim the procedure wasn’t done because of it being too expensive while the defendants say SMF took the truck to other shops that stated nothing needed to be done, according to Austin.

Hill did have a history of DUIs and license suspensions, says Austin, however, none occurred while driving the company’s vehicle.

Although there was evidence that Hill failed to timely submit to a test for alcohol following the accident, there was no direct evidence alcohol was involved, says Austin.

The money, $3 million punitive and $2 million compensatory, will go to McCoy’s two children.

Austin says he can not speculate whether or not the defendants will choose to file an appeal.

The trail was conducted in Blount County because McCoy lived here, her estate is being probated in Blount County, and SMF does regular business in Alabama and, therefore, submits itself to Alabama jurisdiction.