Trucker's widow sues over '09 crash death

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – A truck driver’s widow wants at least $5 million in damages after his 2009 death in a fiery Union County crash.
Tuesday, Magistrate Judge S. Allan Alexander set a Sept. 6 case management conference for both sides in the federal lawsuit filed June 17.
Rita Marie Bruce of Waverly, Tenn., sued Isaac Whitlock of West Memphis, Ark., and Hamp&M International Transportation of Iselin, N.J., in the Northern District of Mississippi.
On July 21, 2009, her husband, James L. Bruce, was driving a 2009 Kenworth transport truck on U.S. Highway 78 near the Myrtle exit in Union County when his vehicle struck the rear of an Hamp&M 2009 Freightliner transport driven by Whitlock.
The lawsuit claims that Whitlock was driving negligently at a “grossly slow, inadequate and dangerous rate of speed with inadequate and improper lighting” and caused her husband to drive his truck into Whitlock’s.
She insists that the resulting explosion caused “a horrible and horrific death by fire” to her husband.
Bruce seeks to recover funeral expenses, lost wages, lost future wages, pain and suffering, and enjoyment of life, as well as punitive damages to be determined by the court.
In answer to the lawsuit, attorneys for Whitlock and Hamp&M deny her claims of negligence and say those claims may be barred because of the negligence of others.
They claim James Bruce understood the risks involved with his profession and that his widow’s claims may be barred by the statute of limitations.
They also question whether her husband’s vehicle restraint system failed or if his vehicle and parts are still available for them to inspect.
No trial date is set.
patsy.brumfield@journalinc.com