published Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

Family files wrongful death suit against Varnell, Ga.

The family of a Cohutta man killed in a fiery crash with a police officer in early March has filed a lawsuit against Varnell, claiming the officer that hit the 70-year-old man was driving more than 90 mph.

The wrongful death lawsuit was filed in Whitfield County Superior Court, where Leon Thurman’s family is asking for up to $750,000 in damages.

Thurman’s son, Michael, said the amount was chosen because it’s the limit the city of Varnell’s insurance will pay in a lawsuit.

An Georgia State Patrol investigation is ongoing into how fast Varnell Officer James Smith was traveling when he crashed into Leon Thurman as he was crossing Cleveland Highway delivering newspapers early on March 4.

An investigator with the collision reconstruction team said they are still waiting on test results before presenting evidence to the Conasauga Judicial District Attorney’s office.

about Joy Lukachick Smith...

Joy Lukachick Smith is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. Since 2009, she's covered crime and court systems in North Georgia and rural Tennessee, landed an exclusive in-prison interview with a former cop convicted of killing his wife, exposed impropriety in an FBI-led, child-sex online sting and exposed corruption in government agencies. Earlier this year, Smith won the Malcolm Law Memorial Award for Investigative Reporting. She also won first place in ...

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