Family of fire chief killed in wreck files wrongful death lawsuit

By Jonece Starr Dunigan
Alabama Media Group

FAIRFIELD, Ala. — The wife and daughter of the Fairfield fire chief who died during a wreck involving a tractor-trailer last month have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the truck driver and the truck company.

Attorneys with Fuston, Petway, & French LLP filed the 18-page, four-count lawsuit in Jefferson County Circuit Court at 2:43 p.m. Thursday.

Chief Kevin Sutton, 54, was pronounced dead at the scene the wreck on Interstate 59 northbound at the Fourth Avenue exit. He was the fire chief for over two decades.

Authorities said an 18-wheeler traveling southbound on I-59 struck two vehicles after crossing the median. One of the vehicles was Sutton's SUV.

The accident also injured Sutton's wife, Phyllis, and his daughter, Tabathia Norman, who are listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuit. The company that owns and operates the tractor-trailer, Peterson Industrial, Inc., and the man who was driving the truck at the time of the accident are listed as defendants.

The lawsuit alleges in count one that Sutton's death was caused by "the negligence, recklessness, carelessness and/or wantonness of the Defendants."

The lawsuit seeks punitive damages from the defendants in an amount to be determined by a struck jury, plus cost and interest. The lawsuit also demands compensation for the medical expenses for Sutton's wife and daughter.

The lawsuit states Phyllis Sutton suffered serious injuries such as severe bruising to her lungs, kidneys and liver. Along with the mental anguish, the lawsuit states she had to get pins in both arms. Her left forearm and one of her wrists were broken.

Norman also received medical expenses after she was thrown 30 yards from the vehicle. At the time the lawsuit was filed, attorneys said Norman is on a respirator during an induced coma. Her femur and collarbone were broken and her pelvis was fractured during the wreck, the lawsuit states. She also received severe burns to her arms and face along with lacerations to her head. The lawsuit is demanding compensation for Norman's injuries as well.

In count two of the lawsuit, attorneys state that Peterson Industrial had "a duty to properly hire, train and supervise safe and competent drivers." The lawsuit said Sutton's death, as well as his wife and daughter's injuries, were "consequences" of the company not abiding by that duty.

Count three of the lawsuit said Peterson Industrial "caused or allowed their tractor trailer to operate on public roadways in unsafe conditions." It also accuses the company of not properly maintaining, inspecting and/or repairing the tractor trailer, making it unsafe. In count four, attorneys said the tractor-trailer driver "was an uninsured/underinsured motorist at the time of the collision."

Courtney French, one of the attorneys who filed the lawsuit, released this statement on the family's behalf:

"The Sutton family wish to express their heartfelt gratitude to everyone in the community, across the state and country for their thoughts, prayers and support during this most difficult time. The void left in our lives is incomprehensible as a result of the loss of Kevin – a wonderful husband, father and friend to many. We thank everyone for the outpouring of love, respect and honor shown to Kevin. Please continue to pray for our family, especially our daughter."

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McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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