Widow claims driver was talking on cell phone when fatal accident happened

Kelly Holleran Sep. 22, 2009, 8:24am

The wife of a recently deceased man has filed suit against the driver who she blames for causing the accident that killed her husband after she says the driver ran a stop sign while talking on a cell phone.

Frances A. Therion claims her recently deceased husband, Joseph W. Therion, was driving north on Illinois State Route 160 in a 2004 Ford Freestar in Helvetia Township on Dec. 24 when defendant Colt J. Witschie, who was driving a 1992 Cadillac STS east on Ellis Road, failed to stop at a stop sign and collided with Joseph W. Therion.

Because of the collision, Joseph W. Therion sustained severe injuries, which required his spleen be removed and which left him in a coma. Joseph W. Therion eventually died from his injuries, according to the complaint filed Sept. 18 in Madison County Circuit Court.

At the time of the collision, Witschie was driving Stacie McCoy's Cadillac, which she allowed him to borrow, the suit states.

Before the collision, Witschie negligently drove while talking on a cell phone, failed to stop at a stop sign, failed to stop the Cadillac before causing a collision, failed to sound the horn on the Cadillac to give warning of his approach and failed to keep a proper lookout, the complaint says. In addition, Frances A. Therion blames Witschie for driving too fast.

McCoy, who is also named as a defendant, was guilty of negligence by allowing Wischie to borrow her vehicle when she knew he was not able to safely operate it, according to the complaint.

In addition to Witschie and McCoy, Frances A. Therion names State Farm International Services, Inc., and Insurance Auto Auctions as defendants.

State Farm had insured Joseph W. Therion's Ford at the time of the collision, which was totaled in the accident. On Feb. 23, State Farm paid off the balance the Therions owed on the Ford, making State Farm the owner of the vehicle, the suit states.

On March 19, State Farm turned the vehicle over to Insurance Auto Auctions in hopes of selling the Ford at auction, the complaint says.

But Frances Therion is asking that State Farm and Insurance Auto Auctions be prohibited from selling the vehicle because she says a potential product liability claim of action may arise against Ford.

"Allowing Defendant State Farm to sell the 2004 Ford Freestar would prejudice Plaintiff in a potential cause of action against Ford Motor Co., because Plaintiff would not be able to examine the vehicle for any defects if it is sold [to] another party at auction," the suit states.

In the eight-count suit, Frances A. Therion is seeking a judgment of more than $300,000, plus costs and other relief the court deems just. She is also asking the court to order State Farm and Insurance Auto Auction not to sell the car until her potential claim against Ford is resolved.

She will be represented by Michael R. Bilbrey and James R. Stever of The Law Offices of Michael R. Bilbrey in Edwardsville.

Madison County Circuit Court case number: 09-L-989.

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