Wrongful death lawsuit over trooper's death continues in Madison County

By Christina Stueve Hodges | Jul 18, 2013


Madison County Circuit Judge Dennis Ruth on June 24 denied a defendant’s request to transfer a lawsuit that arose after an Illinois state trooper was killed while on duty.

The plaintiff in the wrongful death lawsuit against Dot Foods says the defense failed to prove the plaintiff’s selection of venue is improper.

Dot Foods, who along with its driver Johnny B. Felton, are being sued over the incident that killed trooper Kyle Deatherage, argues the case filed in January has no connection to Madison County.

Dot Foods seeks to transfer the case from Madison to Montgomery County – the site of the November tractor trailer accident that claimed the life of Deatherage.

According to plaintiff attorney Thomas Q. Keefe, Jr. of Belleville, Dot Foods hired DTI (Dot Transportation) to pick up and transport nearly $130 million of goods from Madison County warehouses to be delivered as directed by Dot during the last four years.

DTI is a wholly owned subsidiary of DOT Foods, Inc., according to Keefe.

Also according to Keefe, DTI has failed to meet its burden of establishing it does not do business in Madison County for purposes of the venue statute.

“This company is responsible for the death of a Madison County husband, father, and public servant," Keefe wrote in his June 24 response to DTI’s motion to transfer venue. "His family has a right to seek justice where they live and where Kyle Deatherage carried out his oath to serve and protect."

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

Sarah Deatherage blames Dot for causing her husband’s death, saying the company negligently hired a truck driver who it knew to be a threat to the public.

She also names Felton as a defendant, saying he operated the truck when he knew he was not medically fit to do so. Sarah Deatherage does not specify Felton’s health issues in her complaint.

She seeks a judgment of more than $225,000, plus costs.

On June 24, 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.

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

The next court date in the case is July 24.

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

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