Michelle Keahey, East Texas Bureau Mar. 5, 2013, 10:10am

MARSHALL - The family of a deceased East Texan has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against a trucking company claiming that the company’s truck driver was negligent for backing up a truck and flat-bed trailer across an oncoming lane of traffic at night and causing a fatal traffic accident.

Karen Smith, individually and on behalf of the Estate of the Dennis Wayne Smith, Jason Smith and Justin Smith filed suit against Michels Corp. on Feb. 28 in the Marshall Division of the Eastern District of Texas.

The crash occurred on Nov. 20, 2012, at the intersection of U.S. Highway 67 and County Road 2080 in Franklin County.

According to the lawsuit, James Larry Peace, an employee of Michels Corp., was hauling a flatbed trailer with a Peterbilt truck and missed his turn into the Michel’s yard on Hwy. 67. Peace traveled about a half mile further north and began to back his flat-bed trailer onto County Rd. 2080, across an oncoming lane of traffic on Hwy 67 at night, in an attempt to turn around and travel back, the suit states.

Dennis Smith was traveling in a southward direction on Hwy 67 and violently crashed into the Michels’ trailer that was blocking Smith’s lane of travel. He died as a result of injuries suffered in the crash.

The lawsuit claims that the trailer was difficult to see from Smith’s direction of travel because it was nighttime, and the truck was sitting in a normal position in or near its proper lane with the headlights facing Smith which created an appearance of normalcy and the reasonable expectation that a difficult-to-see flatbed trailer would be backed across the oncoming lane of traffic at night.

The Texas Department of Public Safety determined that “contributing factors” caused the wreck including that Peace “backed without safety” and exhibited “driver inattention.” Peace was charged with criminally negligent homicide.

The defendant is accused of negligence, negligence per se and negligence proximate causation.

Smith is seeking an award of damages for mental anguish, physical pain loss of consortium, grief, bereavement, loss of future financial contributions, loss of services, loss of advice, care and counsel, loss of society and companionship, medical, funeral and burial expenses.

The plaintiffs are represented by Frank L. Branson and Quentin Brogdon of the Law Offices of Frank L. Branson PC in Dallas.

U.S. District Judge Rodney Gilstrap is assigned to the case.

Case No. 2:13-cv-00185

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