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NC Supreme Court rules DOT can be sued in 2002 auto wreck

Posted June 15, 2012

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— The North Carolina Supreme Court issued a ruling Friday that the state Department of Transportation can be sued by the estates of three people killed in an auto collision on a Johnston County road nearly 10 years ago.

Mickela Nicholson, 20, and three passengers – Marianne Dauscher, 18, Steven Carr, 18, and Micheal Layaou, 25 – were traveling Aug. 31, 2002, on N.C. Highway 1010 in Johnston County when Nicholson hydroplaned and hit a Jeep Cherokee head-on.

The estates of Nicholson, Dauscher and Layaou sued the DOT for negligence, claiming the road had, for a long time, been in disrepair and that the DOT "failed to make appropriate repair."

They claim that Nicholson was driving within the posted speed limit and that the road's condition caused her to veer off the highway and that when she tried to get back on the road, erosion caused her to overcorrect.

She lost control of the car, crossed the center lane and hit the Jeep head-on, according to the lawsuit.

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  • whatelseisnew Jun 15, 2012

    "It's pretty simple, if you hydroplane, you are going too fast. That said, if you can't recover from it because of the road condition, then it sounds like the ultimate outcome is going to be that the negligence/responsibility may get apportioned between the driver and the DOT."

    Not necessarily. The DOT can and has modified roadways such that just in specific spots hydroplaning can occur unexpectedly. A friend of mine was victimized by such a case. I had to pick him up and in talking with the driver of the wrecker he told me the spot where my friend hydroplaned had become a place where this occurred frequently after the DOT had modified the roadway. Prior to the modification no such wrecks had happened. If I were this driver I would look for a history and use that in the lawsuit.

  • abbynork Jun 15, 2012

    It's about time - this states roads are criminal.

  • jcthai Jun 15, 2012

    It's pretty simple, if you hydroplane, you are going too fast. That said, if you can't recover from it because of the road condition, then it sounds like the ultimate outcome is going to be that the negligence/responsibility may get apportioned between the driver and the DOT.

  • beachboater Jun 15, 2012

    I can remember when North Carolina was known as the "Good Roads State." That is no longer true, and I haven't seen mention of the good roads state in many years. If every motorist that has an accident due to bad roads, roads will never be built. There are many areas on relatively new roads that hold water that will cause hydroplaning. I have not seen any improvements to these roads. There just isn't enough money allocated to the DOT, even though we have the highest gas tax among surrounding states.

    I guess the NC gas tax need to go up to around $3 or $4 a gallon to allow for all roads to be repaired as needed. Of course with the related retail cost of gasoline at $7 to $8 a gallon, nobody will be able to sue the DOT because they can't afford to drive.

  • djofraleigh Jun 15, 2012

    If the people of NC are going to have to pay for damages due to unimproved, defective, poorly maintained pavement, markings, signage or shoulders, etc. then we should immediately make speed limits lower to 25mph. maybe no one should drive when it is raining or icy or snowy?

  • DontVote4LiarsCheatsOrThieves Jun 15, 2012

    OneLove - "Hydroplaning & overcorrecting can happen on the best maintained roads."

    Yes, but in this case, it apparently happened on a road KNOWN by locals as not receiving good repair service over time. That's what the story intimates.

  • DontVote4LiarsCheatsOrThieves Jun 15, 2012

    Interesting!

    Will be watching to see how this ends.

  • topfan4unc Jun 15, 2012

    Most people forget that the speed "limit" is only for ideal weather and visibility conditions. Wet roads, fog, heavy traffic all call for reduced speeds but no one ever "gets it".

  • OneLove Jun 15, 2012

    I am sorry for their loss; however, this just seems greedy to me. How can they prove that?? Hydroplaning & overcorrecting can happen on the best maintained roads. Money is the objective here.....period.