HUNTINGTON - A lawsuit against Erie Insurance Company in which the plaintiff is seeking $1.5 million in future lost wages has been removed from Mason Circuit Court to federal court.

Steven Ray Higgins, an Ohio resident, was also named as a defendant in the suit.

On May 3, 2011, at approximately 4:20 p.m., on W.Va. 62 in Mason County, Higgins wantonly, dangerously, negligently, carelessly, in violation of West Virginia law and in gross disregard of the lives and safety of others, operated a 1997 Nissan pickup and rear-ended a 2000 Ford Explorer operated by LaDonna Stewart, forcing her vehicle into the path of oncoming traffic, according to a complaint removed April 11 to the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia at Huntington.

Philip Stewart claims Higgins' actions caused LaDonna Stewart's death.

The defendants' actions in causing LaDonna Stewart's wrongful death caused Philip Stewart and her surviving family members sorrow, mental anguish and solace; reasonably expected loss of income in an amount no less than $1.5 million; reasonably expected services, protection, care and assistance provided by LaDonna Stewart in an amount no less than $500,000; and reasonable funeral expenses in an amount no less than $12,575.63, according to the suit.

Philip Stewart claims he and his wife maintained an insurance policy with Erie which included uninsured motorist coverage in an amount no less than $50,000, which Erie has denied existence of the coverage.

In denying the existence of the uninsured motorist coverage, Erie has breached its insurance contract, according to the suit.

Philip Stewart is seeking compensatory and punitive damages and damages against Erie in an amount equal to the uninsured motorist benefits due under the policy. He is being represented by Harvey D. Peyton and Thomas H. Peyton of the Peyton Law Firm.

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia at Huntington case number: 3:13-cv-07762

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