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$40 million lawsuit filed in fatal wreck

September 28, 1998|By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The estate of a Falling Waters, W.Va., man has sued a Florida trucking company and one of its drivers for $20 million each in a 1997 fatal accident on Interstate 81, according to court records.

In a wrongful death lawsuit filed in Berkeley County Circuit Court, estate representative Lisa D. Brice alleges that Raymond C. Roman, of Jacksonville, Fla., was traveling at an unsafe speed in a construction zone when the accident in which James R. Brice died occurred.

The accident happened shortly before 5 p.m. on Oct. 2, 1997, on northbound I-81 near the Spring Mills exit, according to the lawsuit.

James Brice was stopped behind a line of traffic when his 1994 Ford F150 pickup truck was struck from behind by a tractor-trailer driven by Roman and owned by Ploof Truck Lines of Jacksonville, according to the lawsuit.

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Brice's truck flew off the road, began to roll and exploded, landing upside down on the shoulder, according to the lawsuit.

Brice, 28, was trapped inside as the truck was engulfed in flames, according to the lawsuit.

According to the West Virginia State Police account, Roman, then 49, was heading north when he came upon traffic slowed by the lanes narrowing to one lane because of construction.

Roman tried to stop, but slid into Brice's pickup truck, flipping it over into a ditch, police said.

A car in front of the pickup truck also was struck by the tractor-trailer, and three occupants were hospitalized, according to police.

Roman was treated at City Hospital in Martinsburg and released, police said.

The lawsuit alleges negligence - including unsafe speed, failure "to keep a proper lookout" and failure "to obey traffic signs indicating a construction zone" - was "the direct and proximate cause" of Brice's death, according to court records.

The suit seeks $10 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages from Roman and the same amounts from Ploof, which it alleges is liable as the truck's owner and Roman's employer.

Damages include the loss of Brice's income, loss of his protection, care and assistance, medical and funeral expenses and the pain and suffering Brice experienced before dying, according to the lawsuit.

According to police, Brice worked at Jefferson Distributing Co. in Martinsburg.

Lisa D. Brice could not be reached for comment Monday night.

There was no listing for the trucking company in Jacksonville, according to an operator.

The phone number listed for Roman was outdated, according to a man who answered at the number.

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