Father seeks $10 Million for daughter for mother's death from coal truck


PAINTSVILLE – A civil action was filed yesterday by Clifford Burchett on behalf of Olivia Burchett, his daughter, for damages stemming from the death of Christa Dawn Burchett on January 22, 2008. The lawsuit, filed by Kirk Law Firm, seeks damages of $10 million.

Christa Dawn Burchett, Paintsville EMS Director and Assistant Fire Chief, was killed by a coal truck operated by Leslie Spence, 38, of Tomahawk when Spence lost control of his loaded tractor-trailer and hit Christa and Erica Brown. Christa and Brian Moore were helping Erica into an ambulance following an accident when all three were hit by Spence’s truck. Erica died at the scene. Christa and Brian were taken to Paul B. Hall Medical Center where Christa died. Brian was later released.

“A ‘loaded’ tractor-trailer is especially dangerous,” the complaint alleges, “and must be operated very cautiously and carefully, given the road conditions, especially if there is snow or ice on the roads, in which case the truck should ‘stay off the road’ or, at least, speed should be decreased to whatever is appropriate.”

“Such vehicles, especially loaded with coal, should never be placed upon the highways if they have brake, steering, or other defects,” John Kirk said. The complaint alleges that the Spence vehicle had mechanical problems.

“January 22, 2008, was a ‘bad January weather’ day” the complaint alleged and further stated, “it was very cold, roads were wet, icy and treacherous, and travel upon 460, especially by ‘loaded’ coal trucks was extremely dangerous; such trucks should either have been parked or should have “crawled along” the roadway at a ‘first gear’ speed,” the complaint alleged.

“Because Spence’s tractor-trailer was ‘loaded,’ because he was traveling excessively fast and because he was traveling on a treacherous road, he was operating his vehicle in a reckless, dangerous, wanton and willful fashion without proper concern for others upon the road,” it is alleged in the complaint.

Burchett’s suit alleges that the truck was overloaded and that it was driven in a reckless and wanton manner and that such reckless and wanton conduct was the proximate cause of the accident and Christa’s death.

Kirk Law Firm settled a lawsuit last year against Hall Trucking Company and Appalachian Fuels in the death of Rev. Lon C. Preece. In that litigation, Preece’s estate sought $20 million from the company that allegedly overloaded the truck that killed Preece. “That truck weighed 150,150 pounds,” John Kirk said, “and the road on which it was traveling was approved for 66,000 pounds.” Terms of the settlement were not revealed but were reported to be seven figures.

Later last year, Kirk Law Firm settled another such legal action on behalf of Paula Duncan, widow of Mitchell Duncan who was killed on his way to work when his vehicle was crashed into by a loaded coal truck in Martin County. The lawsuit in that case was filed against Francis Trucking Company and against the coal company that allegedly overloaded the truck. Reportedly, the truck weighed 126,000 pounds and the road on which the accident occurred, Kentucky 293 east of Lovely, was approved for 44,000 pounds.

“Sadly, we see these kinds of accidents all too often,” John Kirk said. “It is my opinion that steps need to be taken to do something to slow down all these trucks. Just today, we filed another such case on behalf of the little kids of Joe Rigsby and tomorrow we are filing yet another one, this one on behalf of Wendy Haney and her two little kids. Both Joe and Wendy’s husband, Ronald, were killed when loaded coal truck hit them.”