GREENEVILLE — The family of a Norton, Virginia, woman killed on Interstate 26 earlier this year while picking up trash has filed a $1.5 million wrongful death lawsuit against a Kingsport-based probation company.
Janice Figueroa, Steven Raleigh, Linda Hurd, David Vanover and Leslie Cantrell filed the lawsuit on July 16 in U.S. District Court in Greeneville. The plaintiffs are the next of kin of Anita Williams and the lawsuit names Alternative Correctional Services as the defendant.
According to court records and published reports, Williams was struck and killed on March 6 by a truck while performing community service trash pickup along Interstate 26 in Sullivan County.
ACCORDING TO THE LAWSUIT
How Williams came to be picking up trash along I-26 started back in December 2019 when she pleaded guilty to petty larceny for stealing $93 worth of cosmetic items from a Kingsport business. The lawsuit states Williams was sentenced to 30 days of community service through ACS.
At the time of her death, Williams was 62 years old, elderly, frail and suffering from COPD and leg, knee and balance problems, the lawsuit states. Regardless, ACS put Williams on a work crew, cleaning and picking up litter and trash along the shoulder and median of I-26, the lawsuit states.
“(Williams) was never evaluated or assessed physically, mentally or otherwise by ACS and was told she would be working indoors at a shelter or charity where she would not have to be on her feet all day,” the lawsuit claims.
THE DAY OF THE ACCIDENT
According to the lawsuit, Williams and other members of the work crew began picking up litter along I-26 on March 4 and continued for the next couple of days. The Williams family claims none of the people working those days were given any advance safety training or precautionary instructions about the assignment.
Nevertheless, the lawsuit claims the workers were instructed to cross the interstate 30 to 40 times a day; even nicknaming the assignment “Frogger’s Game” and “Russian Roulette.”
On March 6, the lawsuit claims there were only two members of the crew still working — Williams and a Carmen Harris. Shortly before 1 p.m. that day, Williams exited a van that had transported them to the work site, and as she was crossing the interstate toward the median, she was struck and killed by a westbound Toyota Tacoma.
“Shockingly, there were no cones, no lights, no blinkers, no signs or other warning devices alerting oncoming traffic that members of a work crew were present,” the lawsuit states.
The wrongful death lawsuit claims it was the duty of ACS to exercise reasonable care in choosing and providing a safe and secure work zone for community service workers under its supervision. The Williams’ family is claiming ACS is guilty of gross negligence and a wanton disregard for human life.
The lawsuit seeks $1 million in compensatory damages and $500,000 in punitive damages.
Jon Cope, the attorney for ACS, said he does not comment on pending litigation.