Lawyers to finalize Estes suit settlement

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 19, 2001

Attorneys are finalizing a settlement in a wrongful death lawsuit against the City of Natchez, Natchez Fire Chief Gary Winborne and former Natchez Fire Department firefighter Bobby Jack Stutzmen. Former Natchez-Adams School board member Terry Estes, his wife Paula and son Brett filed the suit for the March 7, 1996, death of their daughter Hailey Elizabeth Estes, 19.

&uot;We’ve reached an agreement, and we’re completing the paperwork,&uot; said Kent Hudson, an attorney for the Estes family.

The amount of the settlement is confidential, Hudson said.

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The suit had been originally set to go to trial today before Adams County Circuit Court Judge Lillie Blackmon Sanders.

Estes and her University of Mississippi sorority sister, Melinda &uot;Mindy&uot; Carlson of Edina, Minn., died after being struck by a Natchez fire truck driven by Stutzman at the intersection of Seargent S. Prentiss Drive and Melrose-Montebello Parkway. &uot;I think everyone will be glad to have it resolved,&uot; Hudson said. &uot;It’s been very traumatic for the Esteses.&uot;

City attorney Walter Brown agreed with Hudson on the tragic nature of the case and said officials are pleased to see the case coming to an &uot;interim&uot; conclusion. &uot;It looks real hopeful that we will have final documents in place by the middle of (the) week,&uot; Brown said.

As part of the settlement agreement, the City of Natchez, Winborne and Stutzman would no longer be defendants in the case, Hudson said.

But Hudson said the plaintiffs still have some issues to work out with some of the City of Natchez’s insurance policies involved in the suit, Hudson said.

&uot;Our only dispute at this point is with the (City of Natchez’s) insurance companies,&uot; Hudson said. Part of the settlement agreement allows the plaintiffs to appeal those specific issues, making Titan Indemnity Company and its policies with the city.

of Natchez the only plaintiff in the case, Hudson said.

&uot;The insurance company has basically said, ‘yes we recognize there is responsibility here,’&uot; Hudson said. &uot;It’s just a question of which policies are going to provide coverage.&uot;

Questions about insurance coverage in certain events are not unusual, Hudson said.

Attorneys will present the case to the Mississippi Supreme Court but depending on whether the high court decides to expedite the case it could take as long as nine months or up to 18 months for the case to be presented.

&uot;We’re glad to get it into the position now where at least the bulk of the lawsuit has been concluded,&uot; Hudson said.

The Estes family should get a portion of the settlement within the next two weeks, while other compensation is on hold pending the Supreme Court ruling, Hudson said.