Trial Win in Wrongful Death Case Against Distracted Driver


Distracted drivers caused 54,302 crashes, injuries, and wrongful deaths in North Carolina in 2016.  If you travel on the streets or highways, you are at risk for being injured or killed by someone who is more interested in their phone than their driving.  

On the morning of May 10, 2016, Russell Rutledge was driving his Chevrolet Silverado from a business meeting in Garner to meet a colleague in Durham. As he drove, Rutledge was using his cell phone to text, email, and make and receive phone calls.  The evidence showed that Rutledge drifted onto the shoulder of Highway 98 in Durham County. Rutledge struck Eugene Rotberg from behind as he was riding his bicycle in the shoulder. Mr. Rotberg was a 66-year-old former physical education teacher and athletic director who had recently retired from Dillard Elementary School in Wake County.  Mr. Rotberg, who had more than 50 years experience riding bicycles, died from the injuries he received from the crash.

After hitting and killing Mr. Rotberg, Rutledge did not stop his truck, and did not know where the collision occurred.  It took Durham County sheriff deputies 30 minutes to find Mr. Rotberg’s body. Rutledge pled guilty to Misdemeanor Death by Motor Vehicle in May 2017 in Durham County Court.  Because of the plea deal Rutledge served 75 days in jail, but was allowed work release on every day except for Sundays. Our client, the Rotberg family, asked us to represent them in the civil suit because of the loss of their husband and father.

The jury found that $4,500,000 was fair compensation for the estate for Mr Rotberg’s tragic and wrongful death. The family appreciates the care and attention the jury gave to the case and is satisfied with the result. About the verdict, Groninger said, “I believe it’s the right result. Distracted drivers are dangerous to everyone who uses the road. While the verdict won’t bring back this beloved husband and father, it does reflect the importance of his life and of safe driving behavior. I hope this is a wake up call for all of us.”

The law firm of Copeley Johnson & Groninger represented the plaintiff.

Read the full article here.

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