published Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

Varnell, motorist’s family settle in fatal crash with police car

  • photo
    Varnell Police Officer James Smith was driving this cruiser when he crashed into Leon Thurman's car March 5. Thurman was at least the sixth Georgian killed in recent years in a crash involving a law enforcement vehicle. Contributed Photo by Michael Thurman

The city of Varnell, Ga., and the family of Leon Thurman have settled for an undisclosed amount of money over the 70-year-old man’s death in a fiery crash on March 12 when an off-duty Varnell police officer smashed into Thurman’s Dodge Neon.

In a joint statement issued today, the two sides declined to specify the exact amount paid through the city’s insurance. But the Thurman family’s attorney, Robert Smalley, of Dalton, called the settlement “substantial.”

The family was asking for $750,000 in the wrongful death case that argued Officer James Smith, who since has resigned, was traveling at more than 90 miles per hour — more than twice the speed limit — when he crashed into Thurman at around 1:30 a.m. on Cleveland Highway in Dalton. Officer Smith wasn’t on a call and his blue lights weren’t on, records show.

Thurman, a retired farmer, was delivering copies of the Dalton Daily Citizen newspaper at the time of the crash.

For complete details, see tomorrow’s Chattanooga Times Free Press.

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