$2 Million Settlement to Family of Woman Killed By Prison Van
By Dean I. Weitzman, Esq. on June 6th, 2014
Joyce R. Meeks had moved her family away from the mean streets of Chicago in 2000 to Lincoln, Neb., so they could live in a safer place. For more than a decade, she and her family enjoyed the quieter lifestyle in Lincoln.
Thirteen years later, tragedy struck on June 25, 2013 as she was driving home after work and her her 2004 Nissan Quest minivan was struck by a state-owned Nebraska prison van that was being operated by an inmate. Meeks, 47, was killed in the crash when the driver of the prison van crossed the centerline on Van Dorn Street near 18th Street and smashed head-on into her vehicle.
Ten months after the fatal crash, Meeks’ husband and family received a $2 million settlement from the state of Nebraska to resolve their lawsuit against the state, according to an April 14 report by the (Lincoln) Journal-Star newspaper. The settlement was approved by a Lancaster County district judge, ending a case that began earlier this year when the family filed a $5 million wrongful death lawsuit, the story reported.
The family alleged that Nebraska was negligent for allowing inmate, Jeremy Dobbe, to operate the prison van that plowed into her minivan. “Witnesses said Dobbe, who had left the Community Corrections Center to pick up fellow work release inmates, had been speeding and driving the Ford Econoline [van] erratically,” according to the newspaper’s report.
Before the crash, the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services had operated an inmate driving program for 28 years, for prisoners on work release, the paper reported previously. The inmate driving program was shuttered after the crash that killed Meeks.
One of the big issues raised by the family’s lawsuit was why the state of Nebraska allowed an inmate with a history of drunken driving, reckless driving and drug convictions to operate a state prison van, the paper reported. “Dobbe, now 36, is at the Nebraska State Penitentiary on original charges of possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver, terroristic threats and criminal mischief,” the paper reported.
On April 21, 2014, Dobbe entered a plea of no contest in connection with Meek’s death, according to the Journal-Star. Just before the fatal crash, he had run two red lights while operating the van that night and “data retrieved from the van showed Dobbe was going just under 90 mph in a 35 mph zone when he hit Meeks’ minivan,” the paper reported. Dobbe faces up to 20 years in prison in connection with the crash.
He had operated the prison van as a paid driver “to drive fellow inmates at the Community Corrections Center-Lincoln to and from their jobs,” according to the paper.
After the crash, Meeks’ family was insistent that the prison driving program be ended.
Injury cases occur every day when innocent victims are hurt or killed in vehicle crashes through no fault of their own due to the actions or indifference of others. That’s why it is critical to have a legal team on your side that uncovers every fact to bolster your case and maximize your damage award.
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