Sullivan settles officer-involved wreck lawsuit for $150,000

J. H. Osborne • Aug 9, 2019 at 3:30 PM

BLOUNTVILLE — The driver and two passengers of a car struck by an on-duty Sullivan County deputy last year have settled their $900,000 lawsuits against Sullivan County for $150,000.

County Attorney Dan Street confirmed to the Times News that the case is officially closed now that a judge has approved the portion of the $150,000 meant as settlement for a minor hurt in the wreck.

“We admitted liability,” Street said, adding it is the first time in his memory that he’s done so in his years defending the county in such cases.

The officer’s cruiser’s dash camera was rolling at the time of the wreck and what it showed was a major factor in the county’s admission of liability and willingness to negotiate a settlement, Street said.

“He didn’t even brake,” Street said, noting the video showed the officer was doing between 60 and 65 miles per hour — above the posted speed limit on the stretch of East Stone Drive he was traveling at the time of and prior to the wreck. Street said the video showed Deputy Brandon Poff had been driving in the middle lane, and had crossed partially into the right lane in advance of the site of the accident.

The wreck occurred in the early morning hours of March 17, 2018. Street said Susan Ann Maynard and her two juvenile passengers had stopped at McDonald’s after having left a nearby hospital, where they’d been for medical treatment of one of the juveniles.

Street said Maynard, 59, pulled onto East Stone Drive from McDonald's (1620 East Stone Drive), turning right. That placed her Nissan Altima in front of Poff’s cruiser as it sped toward her, partially in her lane. Poff’s cruiser struck Maynard’s car from the rear, but not squarely, Street said.

The Tennessee Highway Patrol investigated. According to a crash report from the Tennessee Highway Patrol, Poff failed to observe the Nissan and merged right into its lane of travel, striking it in the rear. The Altima was pushed off the roadway and hit a road sign at Grills Street, causing disabling damage. The report also states the investigating trooper believed Poff had been inattentive behind the wheel, with his drowsiness being a contributing factor to the wreck.

Street said Maynard spent two or three days in the hospital after the wreck and one of the juveniles also required medical treatment.

Maynard and the juveniles sought $300,000 each in initial court filings. Street ultimately asked for and gained approval from the Sullivan County Commission’s Executive Committee to settle with all three plaintiffs for $150,000 total. 

According to SCSO Capt. Andy Seabolt, Poff was on duty at the time of the incident. He was reassigned as a school resource officer and now serves Indian Springs Elementary.

Staff reporter Rain Smith contributed to this report.

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