Settlement Reached in Lawsuit of Rocky Mount (VA) Fire Apparatus Crash

The plaintiff and defendants involved in an emotionally-charged lawsuit tied to the 2010 deaths of two volunteer firefighters in Rocky Mount reached a settlement in the case last week, an agreement that could eliminate the need for a second jury trial scheduled this summer.

Franklin County Circuit Court Judge William Alexander must approve the settlement before it becomes final.

Veteran firefighters Posey Dillon, 59, and William “Danny” Altice, 67, died of injuries after the fire truck Dillon was driving collided on July 26, 2010, with an SUV driven by Terri Anne Valentine. The fire truck veered out of control after the collision and rolled, ejecting both men.

In March 2012, Christie Altice-Weaver, Altice’s daughter and executor of his estate, sued Valentine; Ann Dillon, Posey Dillon’s widow; and the estate of Posey Dillon, contending that Valentine’s and Posey Dillon’s alleged negligence led to Altice’s death. Altice-Weaver’s lawsuit sought a total of $2 million in damages.

The jury that heard the first trial in September found that Valentine was liable for Altice’s death, but not Dillon. But problems with that trial led Alexander in December to set a new trial for July 28, with the understanding that Valentine’s liability had been established during the first trial.

On Friday, lawyers involved in the case said that they could not comment about settlement details. Tony Russell, an attorney representing plaintiff Altice-Weaver, confirmed the settlement in a brief email statement: “All issues raised in that lawsuit have been resolved, and the lawsuit will now be dismissed from the docket in the Circuit Court of Franklin County.”

Brian Brydges is Valentine’s attorney. Brydges confirmed the settlement but, like Russell, declined to discuss its details. Brydges said he believes the plaintiff and defendants in the case feel relieved to avoid a second trial.

“I’m sure all the parties are pleased to be able to resolve the case and put it behind them, both for themselves and for the community,” Brydges said.
Attorneys James Daniel and Martha Medley have represented Ann Dillon and the estate of Posey Dillon.

“It’s resolved and we are moving on from here,” Daniel said Friday.

When the collision occurred, Valentine had driven her 2007 Ford Escape into the intersection of Virginia 40 from School Board Road on a green light, and the eastbound fire truck driven by Dillon was facing a red light.

An investigation of the crash by Virginia State Trooper R.D. Conley concluded that Dillon slowed but never stopped the fire truck as he drove into the intersection. He found that Dillon had operated the emergency vehicle “without regard for the safety of individuals on the roadway, including [Altice].”

During trial testimony in September, Valentine said she did not see or hear the fire truck until it was too late to avoid the collision.

She testified that she felt haunted about not understanding why she failed to perceive the fire truck’s approach. Several witnesses of the collision said the fire truck’s siren and air horn were sounding and its emergency lights flashing.

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