Jury debates whether Crescent is liable for traffic deaths of Winthrop professor, daughter, Clover teen

mgordon@charlotteobserver.comMay 9, 2013 

After three days of deliberations, the jury deciding the $15 million lawsuit against a Charlotte development company is making progress toward a unanimous decision, the panel’s foreman told the courtroom Thursday afternoon.

He also mistakenly told Superior Court Judge Robert Ervin how the jury’s votes were falling at that point.

Two families are suing Crescent Resources, claiming that the company’s failure to install a promised traffic signal on N.C. 49 contributed to three deaths there in 2009. Crescent says the light, though promised, was not yet needed, and that the reckless behavior of two speeding drivers caused the deaths.

Friday, the trial will close out its third week. The jury has been deliberating since Tuesday afternoon.

On Thursday afternoon, Ervin called the six men and six women into the courtroom and asked the foreman if they were making progress toward a unanimous decision.

The foreman said they were.

When Ervin asked for a breakdown of the votes, the foreman said four of the jurors were siding with the plaintiffs. Ervin stopped him and told him he didn’t want to know whom the votes were for, just how a vote count.

In response, the foreman again told the courtroom that four of the 12 favored the plaintiffs. He then described the breakdown as 4-5-3.

Later, the jury sent the judge a question.

Could the negligence of one party insulate another from being accountable for its role?

The issue strikes at the heart of the case. On April 4, 2009, two drivers began racing on N.C. 49, south of Steele Creek. After reaching speeds of up to 100 mph, according to earlier testimony, one of the drivers slammed into a car driven by Cindy Furr. The collision killed the Winthrop University professor and her 2-year-old daughter Mackie. Also killed was Hunter Holt, a 13-year-old Clover passenger in the racing car.

The families of the dead say a traffic signal at the intersection of N.C. 49, Riverpointe Drive and the entrance to the Palisades development might have saved lives.

Crescent had agreed to install the light in return for Mecklenburg County’s go-ahead for construction of the Palisades.

Company attorney Greg York says the company’s traffic studies before the 2009 accident showed that the light was not yet needed, and that the actions of the two speeding drivers caused the deaths.

The plaintiffs’ claims that the light would have saved lives, he said, is conjecture.

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