Judge allows additions to truck crash suit

Audrey Caro

A judge has granted a motion to amend a civil lawsuit against Robert Gene Mayfield, the driver of a truck involved in a fatal crash two years ago in which another truck driver, Neil Nightingale, was killed.

Tamera Lea Nightingale, Neil Nightingale’s widow, filed a civil suit on Feb. 7, 2017, that names Mayfield and Papé Machinery, Inc., the company that owned the repair truck Mayfield was driving, as defendants.

Linn County Circuit Court Judge Fay Stetz-Waters approved a motion filed Feb. 2 by Nightingale’s attorneys, which will add allegations, “the most important of which is that Mr. Mayfield was using a mobile phone illegally immediately before the crash,” according to court documents, and add to requests for punitive damages.

Stetz-Waters heard arguments from attorneys for both sides on Feb. 9.

Brent Barton, Nightingale’s attorney, said plaintiffs have “remarkably precise data” that tells what happened the day of the crash, Jan. 21, 2016, “to the millisecond.”

Barton also said a surveillance camera located near the incident was recording during the time. The vehicles are not visible through trees at the time of the crash, but it was apparent when the crash occurred.

In her ruling, Stetz-Waters said the plaintiff’s evidence shows “Mayfield understood the risk associated with distracted driving” and that he knew “Papé had a policy against using a cell phone while driving.”

At the Feb. 9 hearing, Jonathan Henderson, attorney for Papé, questioned how they could know whether the time on the camera is synced with the time on the cellphone that was analyzed.

“I heard counsel saying (Mayfield) was on the phone the whole time,” Henderson said. “No one can say if he was looking at his phone.”

Henderson said that the forensics expert could not testify what Mayfield was about to do and pointed out that Mayfield was not cited by the police for any of his actions the day of the crash.

Stetz-Waters ruled that the plaintiffs produced “some admissible evidence establishing specific facts and reasonable inferences that could cause a reasonable jury to find (Mayfield) was acting within the scope and course of employment at the time of the accident.”

An eight-day civil trial is scheduled to begin June 4.