WINFIELD – A prominent attorney has asked the Putnam Circuit Court to help preserve possible evidence related to a recent automobile accident that left a woman in a coma.
On Sept. 28, Nitro attorney Harvey D. Peyton petitioned the court. According to documents, Janice Smith was injured Sept. 18 when her 2003 Volkswagen was hit on Interstate 64 near Cross Lanes by a 2006 GMC Savannah van driven by Willie Taylor and owned by Rock Branch Mechanical of Poca. Peyton, who filed the documents on behalf of Smith's guardian Mary J. Vanoy, says Smith was critically injured and is in a coma in the intensive care unit of Charleston Area Medical Center.
While a traffic crash report had not been completed at the time of the filing, Peyton says an inspection of the scene and discussions with investigating officers and witnesses indicate that Taylor and Rock Branch are to blame for the accident.
"Petitioner's counsel has had significant experience in litigation regarding automobile accident cases such as this and states upon information and belief that there are significant evidentiary matters presently in the control of the respondent which, if permitted to be removed from Putnam County, West Virginia, or disposed of by the respondent, will have a significant adverse impact on the ability of the petitioner to seek the prompt, fair and efficient administration of justice in this court or any other court of competent jurisdiction where claims arising from the injuries sustained by Janice Smith may be asserted," court documents state.
The van is being stored at Rock Branch Mechanical in Poca.
"An inspection of the nature and extent of the damage of this unit is essential to petitioner's claims; in addition, this vehicle may be equipped with an event data recorder substantially similar to an airline 'black box,' from which can be downloaded significant pertinent information regarding the speed of the vehicle, braking capacity of the vehicle, and other relevant operational factors which are so important to the petitioner's potential claim that at a minimum arrangements should be made for this download to take place in the simultaneous presence of petitioner's representatives and the respondent," the documents state.
Also, Peyton says dispatch or other driver log records may have been maintained by Taylor or Rock Branch that may be relevant.
"Counsel's experience indicates that unless an order is entered immediately by this court mandating the respondent to keep and maintain these records, the same will be unavailable if requested by petitioner's counsel at a later date," the documents state. "There is within the inherent power of this Court to protect the integrity of the judicial process and promote the fair an efficient administration of justice, the ability to enter orders from time to time as may be necessary for the protection and preservation of evidence where there exists a reasonable probability that such evidence is or may be material and relevant to an action which is filed or may be filed in this or any other court."
Peyton asks the court to enter an ex parte order enjoining the respondent from removing the van from its location in Poca until it can be inspected thoroughly; enjoining and restraining the respondent or its representatives from destroying, damaging or tampering with the event data recorder contained in said unit or from downloading information from that recorder without the presence of representatives of the petitioner; and keeping the respondent from damaging, destroying, defacing, altering or disposing of any dispatch records or driver service logs for the 24-hour period prior to the accident.
The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge O.C. "Hobby" Spaulding.
Putnam Circuit Court case number: 06-C-319