COLUMBIA, SC (WCSC) - A North Charleston woman was awarded $325,000 last week after her daughter was run over by an 18-wheeler in Columbia two years ago.
A Richland County jury ruled in favor of the woman's lawsuit last Friday. The woman's daughter, 29-year-old Denechia Dent, was killed on Jan. 3 two years ago when a truck driver ran over her in the parking lot of the Mad Platter. Dent was a mother of two young boys.
Authorities say the driver, Kenneth Goode of Tuskeegee, Alabama, left the scene after striking Dent. Columbia police used security surveillance videos from a nearby dry cleaner to identify Goode as the driver.
Goode admitted to running over Dent immediately after giving her a ride earlier that morning. Goode told police that Dent walked in the path of his truck causing her death, however, and was not charged or cited in the incident.
The civil suit for wrongful death alleged negligence, recklessness, and willfulness on the part of Goode and the company he worked for, Pierce National Trucking, in failing to follow state law and their own internal company policies in causing the accident, including a company policy which prohibited the transport of unauthorized passengers by its drivers.
It was acknowledged during the trial that Dent was an unauthorized passenger in Goode's vehicle and that he had not obtained the proper permissions before giving her a ride on the morning of the accident.
"When a driver fails to follow his own company safety policies and that failure causes the death or injury of another person, that is by definition a negligent act and a lawsuit waiting to happen." said Dent's attorney, Dwayne Green.
"In this case, what made the failure even more egregious was the fact that the driver left the scene of the accident, when stopping and calling authorities is mandatory under our state law for incidents of this type."
Expert testimony in the case was offered to show that had Goode stopped and called EMS, there was a chance Dent's life could have been saved.
Dr. Manoj Chag, a board certified emergency room physician from Roper St. Francis Hospital, also testified that the decedent likely lived for a period of time after being struck in the collision, during a "golden hour" when any chance of saving her life was lost.
Other expert testimony in the trial established that Goode should have maintained a proper lookout prior to striking the pedestrian, and at a minimum, that he should have noticed the collision afterwards, and stopped.
Green said he would have liked to see the jury award more on the family's behalf, but believes the award was limited due to the fact that Dent was unemployed at the time of her death and that custody of her two children had been taken away from her in a previous Department of Social Services action.
"It's a tragedy when someone mortally injures another human being and does not have the decency to acknowledge that mistake or do everything in his power to save that life." Green said. "Although this award won't bring their loved one back, it does help the family move forward and provide some monetary support for her surviving children."