Christina Stueve Hodges Jun. 6, 2013, 12:24pm

A defendant in a Madison County wrongful death lawsuit is seeking to transfer the case to the state of Georgia or in the alternative to Montgomery County, Ill., the site of a fatal tractor trailer accident in November.

Dot Foods, and its driver Johnny Felton are being sued over an accident that killed Illinois State trooper Kyle Deatherage.

Felton argues the case should be transferred to his home state of Georgia or to Montgomery County, Ill. He filed a motion to dismiss or in the alternative, transfer the case for forum non conveniens on May 29.

Sarah Deatherage claims she and her two children have suffered grief, mental anguish and depression after their husband and father was killed during a routine traffic stop on Interstate 55 near Litchfield on Nov. 26.

Kyle Deatherage, then 32, died immediately when the truck driven by Felton struck him as he was standing near mile post 62, according to media reports of the accident.

Sarah Deatherage claims Dot negligently hired a truck driver knowing he was a threat to the public. She also named Felton a defendant, saying he operated the truck when he knew he was not medically fit to drive.

“By her complaint, plaintiff has alleged that defendant Felton was medically unfit to drive on the date of the alleged occurrence. All evidence related to Felton’s medical condition, including his treating physicians, and DOT examining physicians, as well as Felton’s medical records are located in the state of Georgia,” according to Felton’s motion.

Felton and two witnesses of the accident, both fellow employees of Felton, and traveling closely behind him on Interstate 55 in Montgomery County at the time of the occurrence, along with several persons having knowledge of facts related to the plaintiff’s claims, reside in the state of Georgia, the motion says.

“These witnesses located in Georgia are not amenable to process in Illinois. Moreover, even if they were willing to testify, it would be a great inconvenience for these individuals to travel to Illinois for trial,” the motion stated.

Alternatively, the case should be transferred to the Montgomery County Circuit Court, according to Felton’s motion.

“The accident occurred in Montgomery County and none of the allegations of fault alleged in plaintiff”s complaint occurred in Madison County,” the motion states.

Felton’s brief also cites Madison County’s congested court docket as a reason the case should be transferred. It states that Madison County had 16,228 civil cases at the end of 2011. Liberty County, Ga. had 425 civil and non-civil cases in 2011, and Toombs County, Ga. had 639 civil and non-civil cases in 2011.

On April 16, Circuit Judge Dennis Ruth granted a petition to intervene filed by the State of Illinois.

The state, represented by Levi C. Bennett, stated in its petition that it has become obligated to pay to survival benefits exceeding $50,000.

Thomas Q.  Keefe Jr. of Keefe and Keefe in Belleville represents Deatherage. She seeks a judgment of more than $50,000, plus costs.

Dot Foods is represented by Donald W. Devitt and James D. Ellman of Chicago.

William Knapp and Donald J. Ohl of Knapp, Ohl & Green in Edwardsville represents Johnny Felton.

Al J. Pranaitis of Hoagland, Fitzgerald & Pranaitis in Alton represents Dot Transportation.

Madison County Circuit Court case number: 13-L-37.

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