Lawsuits filed in Richburg wreck

CHESTER -- Three lawsuits have been filed against the owners and driver of a tractor-trailer that crashed into a minivan March 26 and killed two Lewisville Elementary School students.

The suits allege that Chester's George Rogers was driving an overloaded truck with worn tires and defective brakes when he ran a red light and crashed into the van. The suits also claim the owners of that vehicle didn't maintain it properly.

The logging company, Levister Logging, is owned by Charles Levister of Union County, according to one suit. Joe Levister, also of Union County, owned or co-owned the truck and Murray Johnson of Fairfield County owned the trailer, the suit states.

The lawsuits, which were all filed last week, claim that the defendants named in the suit are responsible for the children's deaths and their families' pain and suffering.

Rogers' attorney, Carl B. Grant of Columbia, could not be reached for comment Thursday. The logging company's lawyer, Phillip Reeves of Greenville, declined to discuss the suits because he had not received copies of them.

The wreck

S.C. Highway Patrol troopers have said Rogers was heading west on S.C. 9 in Richburg when he ran a red light and slammed into a minivan at the Lewisville High School Road intersection just as school was getting out.

The crash killed 9-year-old Hannah Quinton and 7-year-old Nicholas Cherry. Hannah's mother, Alice, was driving the van. Hannah's 7-year-old brother, Timmy, and Nicholas' 5-year-old sister, Taylor, were passengers. Alice Quinton, Timmy Quinton and Taylor Cherry were flown to Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte. All have since been released.

Rogers was charged with two counts of reckless homicide in April. At a probable cause hearing in June, a member of the Highway Patrol's collision reconstruction team testified that a mechanical specialist found "numerous defects" with the logging truck, including problems with the brakes and tires.

The expert said the loaded vehicle had 10 brakes, but only four were working at the time of the crash. Troopers have said Rogers was not speeding.

Rogers, who has no points on his driving record, was ticketed 10 years ago in Missouri for operating a vehicle with improper brakes. His 10-year driving record shows no other violations, according to the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

The lawsuits

One of the lawsuits was filed by Chester County Councilman and attorney Brad Jordan, who is representing the Quinton family. Jordan declined to comment on the case Thursday.

The lawsuit Jordan filed claims Rogers was driving a truck overloaded with logs by about 2,000 pounds. The document also claims Rogers was driving too fast for conditions.

All the defendants "were negligent, careless, reckless, willful and wanton and grossly negligent," the suit states, citing, among other things, that they failed to keep the vehicle in proper working condition.

The defendants caused the Quinton family grief and suffering as well as medical and funeral expenses, the suit states.

The other two lawsuits were filed by Rock Hill attorney Dale Dove, who represents the Cherry family.

The documents make similar claims: One suit alleges that the defendants are responsible for Nicholas Cherry's death and the other states they are to blame for the injuries and suffering of Taylor Cherry.

Dove said he waited until the Highway Patrol's collision reconstruction team finished its investigation before filing the lawsuits. He also said the civil cases mean more than medical bills and funeral costs; they're also about the safety of tractor trailers.

"We believe they (drivers and owners) have a higher responsibility to the public to make sure that these things are properly maintained, that the drivers are properly trained, that they have a heightened sense of security for people when they go through an intersection," he said. "This isn't just like your passenger car."

Speaking out about the issue in a lawsuit, he said, "is at least one positive thing" the family can do in this situation.

"Somebody's got to make a point, to take a stand, to say this is not right," he said. "That's what this family's doing. ... Yes, they have their own personal losses, but somebody's got to take a stand and say -- on behalf of us -- we can't have things like this happening in our community, on our roadways, because look at what it causes."

A criminal trial date for Rogers has not been set.