July 16, 2013

Tenn. man sued for wrongful death

Facing murder charges in circuit court

By Nita Johnson
Staff Writer

LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. — A Tennessee man charged with the July 7, 2012 vehicular death on I-75 is now being sued by the family of the victim.

The lawsuit against Austin T. Meredith, age 25, of Sevierville, was filed by the family of Howard M. White Jr., in Laurel Circuit Court on July 3, and asks for damages against both Meredith and the company for which he was driving their box truck.

The civil lawsuit names the administrix of White’s estate and two others as the plaintiffs in the case, which names Meredith and Justin B. Meredith, partner or owner of JB’s Corner Market

Meredith was near the northbound 30-mile marker of I-75 around 4 a.m. in a 2009 white Ford Econoline E350 box truck owned by JB’s Corner Market of  Powell, Tennessee when he crossed the fog line and struck White. White, who was driving a rollback wrecker, was parked on the emergency lane and was outside the vehicle, checking his load to ensure it was properly secured when the accident occurred. Two passengers in White’s vehicle watched the collision, although they were uninjured in the crash that took White’s life.

The lawsuit claims that the owners of JB’s Corner Market and others named as defendants in the case were “negligent and grossly negligent” by allowing Austin Meredith to operate the company truck because ”they knew or should have known” that Meredith was driving on a suspended license, had prior DUI convictions and had no insurance on the vehicle. The lawsuit, filed by attorney Mark Dean of Shelbyville, Ky., asks for damages for loss of consortium by three family members as well as compensatory and punitive damages.

Law enforcement officers responding to the scene reportedly smelled alcohol in Meredith’s vehicle and then performed a breathalyzer test, which indicated the presence of alcohol.

Meredith was arrested at the scene of the accident, where White was pronounced dead. Meredith was indicted on August 17 on the charges of murder, two counts of first-degree wanton endangerment, driving under the influence of intoxicants, no insurance, and three violations pertaining to records required by commercial truck drivers. He is scheduled for a pretrial hearing on those charges in Laurel Circuit Court on July 19.