Soil quality to blame for woman's death, lawsuit says

By John O'Brien | Jun 29, 2006

CHARLESTON - The Administrator of the estate of a woman who was killed by a falling tree and the father of her granddaughter has filed a lawsuit against those they feel responsible for the incident.

Marlon Collins, the Administrator of the Estate of Donna Collins, and Terry Burgess, the legally appointed guardian of Jaylon Collins filed the lawsuit June 22 in Kanawha Circuit Court against the Vincent-Taylor Trust and Gaddy Engineering Co.

The lawsuit says Donna Collins was driving on State Route 10 near Logan on Aug. 28, 2004, when a tree fell out of the mountainside property maintained by the defendants, landing on Collins' 1993 Ford Taurus and killing her.

Jaylon Collins, an infant, had to witness the event and the lawsuit says has been forced to undergo professional counseling.

The plaintiffs are represented by L. Lee Javins II of Charleston law firm Bucci, Bailey and Javins. They say the property was kept in such a way that the soil was not fit for holding trees, leading to the fall.

"The soil composition of the portion of this parcel directly adjacent to State Route 10 provided shallow cover such that trees could not safely establish a firm root base in the rocky terrain," the lawsuit says. "As a result of the poor rooting substrate and steep slope on this portion of the parcel of land, on numerous occasions prior to the events giving rise to this cause of action, trees had uprooted from this unstable parcel of land and fell directly in and/or across State Route 10, which was the target area for numerous trees on this parcel of land."

It adds that the tree was 31 inches in diameter when it "uprooted from the unstable, shallow soil sparsely covering the highwall and fell onto the plaintiff's car, crushing the vehicle and fatally injuring the plaintiff's decedent as the 4-year-old plaintiff Jaylon Collins was forced to watch his grandmother die alongside him in the automobile."

The plaintiffs allege that the Vincent-Taylor Trust and Gaddy Engineering did not take the necessary precautions for removing danger trees and claim to have incurred pain and suffering, sorrow, loss of income, expected services, protection, care and assistance and emergency care and funeral expenses.

They charge the defendants with wrongful death and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

Judge Louis Bloom has been assigned the case.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number 06-C-1195

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