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July 29, 2013

Sellersburg fire department ordered to pay $225,000 in wrongful-death suit

Jury rules in favor of deceased woman's estate

SELLERSBURG —

The Sellersburg Volunteer Fire Department will pay $225,000 to the estate of a woman killed in a 2009 vehicle collision with an ambulance, following a verdict reached in a civil trial Friday.

Opal Couch, 75, Jeffersonville, was killed after a SVFD ambulance “doing business as” a Clark County EMS ambulance struck the side of her Lincoln passenger car about 2 p.m. July 4, at an intersection on Lewis and Clark Parkway near Bob Evans restaurant.

The SVFD was represented during the 4-day trial by attorney Rodney Scott, New Albany, who said he expects to appeal the jury’s decision.

“I am deeply disappointed with the jurors’ verdict,” Scott said. “It is a wrongful-death case, and these are always tough verdicts.”

He said there was no doubt that the driver of the ambulance, Travis Herthel, who testifed during the trial, had been operating the ambulance with its lights and sirens activated, although the complaint stated that was not the case.

There was also evidence that Couch was using a cell phone at the time of the collision.

“She was definitely using the cell phone,” Scott said.

Herthel testified that as he was approaching the intersection, he saw Couch’s vehicle at a stop partially in the intersection in a perpendicular direction of travel.

He said that he intended on driving around the stopped vehicle, but as the ambulance entered the intersection, Couch’s vehicle had continued to complete its left turn.

It is believed Herthel was driving nearly 60 mph prior to and at the time of impact.

While the estate is being administered by Jeffersonville attorney Charles Guilfoyle, the trial was handled by the law firm Reynolds, Horne & Survant, Macon, Ga., where Couch is originally from.

Michael Horner handled the trial’s proceedings, but attorney Carl Reynolds was reached by phone hours after the verdict was reached.

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