About 9:30 p.m. July 23, 2011, Babe Thompson was in his wheelchair heading home on 14th Street from the grocery store when James E. Williams, who had been drinking, hit him head-on with his car, Assistant District Attorney Matt Breeding said in court. James Williams, 20, was sentenced in Forsyth County Superior Court to 2 years five month to upto 3 years 8 months by pleading guilty to felony death by motor vehicle and felony hit and run and driving after consuming alcohol while under the age of 21.

Mr. Williams had a blood alcohol level of .15 when he turned himself in to authorities 45 minutes after the collision. Witnesses said that he was going 50 mph in a 35 mph zone. One witness said he was standing in his seat while riding down the road.

In my opinion, Mr. Williams driving rises to the level of gross negligence because of 1) driving while impaired (DWI), 2) hit & run, and 3) if he was indeed standing in his seat that would be a sign of willful and wanton conduct too. He’s liable for the wrongful death of Babe Thompson simply on the basis of his speeding.

Charlene Douthit, the sister of Mr. Thompson, says she forgives Mr. Williams.

Wrongful Death cases are based on the general statutes of North Carolina. If the defendant is found liable, then the estate of the decedent can recover damages, including: funeral expenses, medical bills, pain and suffering of the person who died, loss of consortium, and the loss of dependents, which includes spouse and children. See the statute below for more details.

What does Loss of Consortium mean? It means the loss of conjugal relations of husband and wife, the right of each to the company, society, affection, and aid of the other. There are several elements of “Loss of Consortium” including intangible like sexual relations, companionship, society. It is a separate claim by the surviving spouse. Black’s Law Dictionary.

Here is the Wrongful Death Statute in North Carolina:

§ 28A‑18‑2.  Death by wrongful act of another; recovery not assets.

(a)        When the death of a person is caused by a wrongful act, neglect or default of another, such as would, if the injured person had lived, have entitled the injured person to an action for damages therefor, the person or corporation that would have been so liable, and or her the personal representatives or collectors of the person or corporation that would have been so liable, shall be liable to an action for damages, to be brought by the personal representative or collector of the decedent; and this notwithstanding the death, and although the wrongful act, neglect or default, causing the death, amounts in law to a felony. The personal representative or collector of the decedent who pursues an action under this section may pay from the assets of the estate the reasonable and necessary expenses, not including attorneys' fees, incurred in pursuing the action. At the termination of the action, any amount recovered shall be applied first to the reimbursement of the estate for the expenses incurred in pursuing the action, then to the payment of attorneys' fees, and shall then be distributed as provided in this section. The amount recovered in such action is not liable to be applied as assets, in the payment of debts or devises, except as to burial expenses of the deceased, and reasonable hospital and medical expenses not exceeding four thousand five hundred dollars ($4,500) incident to the injury resulting in death, except that the amount applied for hospital and medical expenses shall not exceed fifty percent (50%) of the amount of damages recovered after deducting attorneys' fees, but shall be disposed of as provided in the Intestate Succession Act. The limitations on recovery for hospital and medical expenses under this subsection do not apply to subrogation rights exercised pursuant to G.S. 135‑45.1. All claims filed for such services shall be approved by the clerk of the superior court and any party adversely affected by any decision of said clerk as to said claim may appeal to the superior court in term time.

(b)        Damages recoverable for death by wrongful act include:

(1)        Expenses for care, treatment and hospitalization incident to the injury resulting in death;

(2)        Compensation for pain and suffering of the decedent;

(3)        The reasonable funeral expenses of the decedent;

(4)        The present monetary value of the decedent to the persons entitled to receive the damages recovered, including but not limited to compensation for the loss of the reasonably expected;

a.         Net income of the decedent,

b.         Services, protection, care and assistance of the decedent, whether voluntary or obligatory, to the persons entitled to the damages recovered,

c.         Society, companionship, comfort, guidance, kindly offices and advice of the decedent to the persons entitled to the damages recovered;

(5)        Such punitive damages as the decedent could have recovered pursuant to Chapter 1D of the General Statutes had the decedent survived, and punitive damages for wrongfully causing the death of the decedent through malice or willful or wanton conduct, as defined in G.S. 1D‑5;

(6)        Nominal damages when the jury so finds.

(c)        All evidence which reasonably tends to establish any of the elements of damages included in subsection (b), or otherwise reasonably tends to establish the present monetary value of the decedent to the persons entitled to receive the damages recovered, is admissible in an action for damages for death by wrongful act.

(d)       In all actions brought under this section the dying declarations of the deceased shall be admissible as provided for in G.S. 8‑51.1


For more information on the court hearing on Babe Thompson’s killer, go to http://www2.journalnow.com/news/2012/feb/22/man-pleads-guilty-to-hit-and-run-that-killed-disab-ar-1961522/

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If you or a loved one has been seriously injured or killed in an accident, call Kirk Sanders, Attorney, at 336-724-4707. Or email at kirk@kirksanderslaw.com

Sanders Law Firm, PLLC, Winston-Salem & Statewide in North Carolina.