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BELLSOUTH MUST PAY IN WRECK INJURY CASE

Sep 15, 2000

MOBILE PRESS REGISTER

A Mobile County jury has ordered BellSouth to pay $875,608 in damages to Chickasaw businessman Noel Cole, who suffered neck injuries in 1995 when a telephone company truck slammed into his Toyota pickup.

The verdict, rendered Wednesday, concluded a three-day trial before Circuit Court Judge Herman Thomas.

Cole’s attorneys, Greg Breedlove and Toby Brown of the Mobile law firm Cunningham, Bounds, Yance, Crowder & Brown, said an internal BellSouth memo, written shortly after the accident showed that the company knew it was liable for the accident.

At the time of the accident, construction crews were working on the Dog River Bridge, and a flagman had stopped Cole, Breedlove said. The flagman testified that he saw the driver of the BellSouth truck looking out at Mobile Bay.

When the driver looked forward and saw the traffic stopped, he slammed on brakes, and the 10-ton truck skidded until crashing into Cole’s car, Breedlove said.

The BellSouth memo stated that “the driver of the company vehicle was not attentive to the surroundings and did not make the necessary preparations to stop.”

The memo noted that a contributing factor may have been a problem with the truck’s rear brakes, which were “somewhat out of adjustment,” the memo stated.

Cole, 52, twice underwent surgery on his neck and has permanent impairment, Breedlove said.

An attorney for BellSouth said the company acknowledged liability from the beginning and had made numerous offers over the past several years to settle the case.

Evidence revealed at trial showed that Cole was rear-ended a second time in 1999 and his second surgery followed the second accident.

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