A wrongful death lawsuit filed in Anderson County in December seeks up to $5 million in damages from the driver of a pickup truck who struck a man riding a commercial lawn mower on South Illinois Avenue in Oak Ridge in September.
The driver of the lawn mower, Danny Palmer, 75, of Oak Ridge, died after the crash.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Palmer in Anderson County Circuit Court in Clinton on December 5 by his wife, Barbara Palmer, who is represented by attorney Bruce D. Fox of Clinton.
The crash between the commercial mower being operated by Palmer and the GMC pickup truck was reported near Summit Place on South Illinois Avenue at about 2 p.m. Thursday, September 13. Preliminary findings indicated that the pickup truck hit the mower, which was in the roadway at the time of the crash, according to the Oak Ridge Police Department. Palmer died of his injuries, the ORPD said.
The driver of the pickup truck, identified in the lawsuit as Marilyn M. Gallaher of Knox County, was not injured, the ORPD said.
Gallaher is named as the defendant in the lawsuit, which alleged that she acted negligently and recklessly, causing the collision that killed Palmer.
According to the lawsuit, Palmer was traveling north on the lawn mower in the outside right lane on South Illinois at the time of the crash. Gallaher was driving a 2005 GMC truck northbound in the middle lane when she “quickly changed lanes to the outside right lane, striking the plaintiff’s lawn mower violently in the rear,” the lawsuit said.
Palmer was thrown from the mower, and he died from his injuries, the lawsuit said.
“At the time of the collision, there was no act or evasive maneuver which could have been made by the decedent, Danny Palmer, to lessen the effect of the impact which claimed his life,” the lawsuit said.
In her answer to the lawsuit, Gallaher, who is represented by Cookeville attorney James D. Madewell, denied that she was driving in the middle lane and quickly changed lanes to the outside right lane. Instead, her response said, Gallaher was driving in the righthand lane northbound on South Illinois Avenue when she came around a curve, headed downhill, and struck the mower. The mower was moving slowly in the righthand lane, and Gallaher did not have time to stop, the answer said. It said Gallaher unsuccessfully tried to swerve into the center lane before hitting the mower that Palmer was driving.
The lawsuit alleges that Gallaher failed to use due care, failed to keep a proper lookout, drove recklessly, failed to keep her vehicle under proper control, followed too closely, and drove at an excessive speed.
Gallaher’s answer, which was filed February 26, denied those allegations. She denied that she was driving in a negligent and reckless manner. She also denied that there was no action or evasive maneuver that Palmer could have used to lessen the impact of the crash.
The lawsuit asked for a jury trial and up to $5 million in damages. It said Barbara Palmer is entitled to recover funeral expenses, the monetary value of her spouse’s life, and the loss of love, affection, and consortium.
Gallaher’s answer asserted affirmative defenses in response to the lawsuit. It said Danny Palmer was mowing and had come out into the street while operating a mower in the righthand, northbound lane on South Illinois Avenue. Palmer was not using warning devices such as flashing lights, triangular signs, or any types of signs to warn drivers of his presence. Because of that, he is guilty of negligence that caused or contributed to the crash and the injuries that resulted in his death, the answer said.
Palmer also failed to use safety equipment, including a seatbelt and roll bar, the answer said, and he failed to yield the right of way to Gallaher.
The answer cited the doctrine of comparative fault and asked that any negligence by Gallaher be compared to Palmer’s negligence, and it also asked for a jury trial.
In a separate answer, a third party, Selective Insurance Company of the Southeast, which carried uninsured motorist coverage for Palmer, denied that Gallaher was an uninsured motorist, denied a liability to Palmer, and demanded to be dismissed from the case.
No court dates have been set in the case, according to Anderson County court records.
Oak Ridge Today was not able to find any records in the Anderson County and Oak Ridge court systems of traffic citations or charges being issued to Gallaher after the crash.
Palmer was a lifetime resident of Oak Ridge, and he graduated from Oak Ridge High School in 1961, according to his obituary. He was the owner and operator of Diversified Service Associates Inc., and he had mowed the right of ways for the City of Oak Ridge for 40 years, his obituary said.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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