Belleville attorneys with Halvachs & Abernathy LLC filed a wrongful death suit Thursday in the Madison County Circuit Court on behalf of the estate of a woman killed when a truck driver caused a multi-vehicle crash on I-55 in November.

The suit suggests that truck driver Mohamed Yussuf Jama of Greeley, Colorado, may have been using a cell phone or another electronic device at the time of the crash.

Tori Renee Carroll
Tori Renee Carroll

Lemuel Kevin Carroll, as special administrator of the estate of Tori Renee Carroll, 20, filed the complaint on Jan. 18 through attorneys Kenneth L. Halvachs and Ronald J. Abernathy Jr.

Tori Carroll, of Alhambra/Staunton, was riding as a front-seat passenger in a 2010 Kia Forte with sisters Hailey Joann Bertels, 20, and Madisen Bertels, 17, on Nov. 21 when the vehicle slowed due to lane restrictions in a construction zone in the southbound lanes of I-55 near Hamel.

Jama was driving a 2016 Freightliner Cascadia tractor trailer when he crashed the truck into the Kia Forte. Jama drove his truck and trailer over the top of the Kia, severely injuring Tori Carroll and ultimately causing her death on Nov. 30. Seven other vehicles were also hit.

Hailey and Madisen Bertels were pronounced dead at the scene. Vivian Vu, 19, of Joplin also died from her injuries on Nov. 23.

Tori Carroll was a law student at NKU Chase Law School in Kentucky. She was a member of Zion Lutheran Church of Staunton and the Tri Sigma Alumnae Sorority, according to her obituary.

She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in criminal justice and a minor in legal studies from Murray State University last year.

The suit states that Jama is an employee of Forward Air Corporation, Forward Air Inc., FAF Inc., Forward Air Solutions Inc., Central States Trucking Co., TQI Inc., Forward Air Royalty LLC and or Forward Air Technologies and Logistical Services Inc. All were named defendants in the suit.

Keller Construction Inc. is also named a defendant in the suit as the general contractor performing repairs and construction on an asphalt crossover on the interstate. Keller Construction installed the traffic control devices preceding and within the construction zone.

The plaintiff alleges Jama negligently and carelessly failed to operate his vehicle in a safe and proper manner, proceeded at a speed which was greater than reasonable and proper with regard to traffic conditions, failed to decrease his speed, failed to stop or swerve to avoid a collision and failed to slow down when approaching a highway construction zone.

The plaintiff alleges the Forward Air defendants breached their duty of care to others on the interstate through their employee Jama.

“Defendants are vicariously liable for the acts and omissions of their employee, Defendant Jama, while acting within the course and scope of his employment,” the suit states.

Lemuel Kevin Carroll claims the Forward Air defendants “intentionally or with reckless disregard for the safety of Plaintiff’s decedent” entrusted Jama with the tractor trailer when it was foreseeable that others were in danger of being struck with the truck. He also alleges they failed to properly train Jama on the safe operation of a tractor trailer when approaching a construction zone and failed to install dash cameras to deter its drivers from using their cellular phones or other electronic devices while operating its equipment.

Further, the plaintiff alleges Keller Construction owed a duty to provide warnings of work zone traffic speed, lane closures and slowed or stopped traffic resulting from the construction work.

He alleges Keller Construction failed to properly design a highway construction work zone to ensure the safe and proper control of traffic, failed to install proper electronic traffic monitoring and warning devices, failed to warn the traveling public of stopped or slowed traffic, failed to re-open the closed lanes of the interstate during times when work was not being performed and failed to reopen the closed lanes preceding the Thanksgiving holiday when it knew of the likelihood of increased traffic.

The seven-count complaint alleges wrongful death and negligence claims and seeks more than $50,000 for each count.

Madison County Circuit Court case number 18-L-54

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