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Lawsuit filed against City of Vidalia, Natchez on bridge wreck

VIDALIA — Two lawsuits were filed last week against the city of Vidalia and Natchez along with various state agencies in connection to a two-vehicle collision on the Mississippi River bridge last year that resulted in a fatality.

On Dec. 15, 2012, the westbound lanes on the bridge were closed during the Jingle All the Way 5K, and two-way traffic was diverted to the east bound lanes. Officers from Vidalia and Natchez were stationed at each end of the bridge directing traffic.

Witnesses reported a green Mercury SUV was traveling west at approximately 8:40 a.m. when a red Mazda car-traveling east veered into the west-bound lane and hit the SUV head-on, Vidalia Police Chief Arthur Lewis stated in an email at the time of the collision.

The driver of the Mazda, Kerry Davis Byargeon, was taken to Natchez Regional Medical Center, where she later died.

The driver of the SUV, Pete Taylor, was airlifted to Rapides Regional Medical Center, while his children, Ethan and Ny’Zaryca Taylor, were taken to NRMC and then taken to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson with non-life threatening injuries.

John T. Joubert, an attorney with Joubert Law Firm of Baton Rouge, filed a petition for wrongful death, survival action and damages Dec. 12 with the Concordia Parish Clerk of Court’s Office.

The petition is filed on behalf of Alan Byargeon and the estate of Kerry Byargeon.

The suit names the following defendants:

• Concordia Chamber of Commerce, Inc.

• Natchez Chamber of Commerce

• Town of Vidalia, through the Vidalia Police Department

• City of Natchez, through the Natchez Police Department

• State of Louisiana, through the Department of Transportation and Development

• State of Mississippi, through the Department of Transportation and Development

• State of Louisiana, through the Department of Public Safety and Corrections, a division of the state police.

The lawsuit states Kerry Byargeon did not encounter any road closure or traffic control signs, barriers, barricades, lights or other messages warning her not to change lanes or preventing her from changing lanes.

The lawsuit states both chambers of commerce “caused and/or contributed to the…collision due to their negligent supervision of traffic conditions and failure to adequately and properly supervise law enforcement officials who attempted to redirect traffic on the day of the collision.”

The lawsuit also states the chambers and police departments are “vicariously liable for the acts of their agents and employees.”

“The actions and inactions of all the defendants in this matter created an unreasonable risk of harm that created an unreasonably dangerous condition, placing two vehicles in the same path for a head-on collision, which took the life of Kerry Byargeon,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit lists various damages suffered by Kerry and Alan Byargeon because of the wreck, and also states Alan Byargeon is entitled to general damages for loss of love and affection for his wife resulting from her death including funeral expenses, medical expenses and other damages to be shown fully at trial.

No trial date has been issued in the Seventh Judicial District Court.

“This is a very tragic case that unnecessarily took the life of a wonderful person, Kerry Byargeon,” Joubert stated in an email Wednesday. “What is sad is that the whole situation could have been avoided with very simple planning.

“Out of respect for the family and the judicial process, I have no other comment at this time.”

Kendall Anderson, of The Anderson Law Office of Collins, filed a lawsuit on Dec. 12 on behalf of the driver of the other vehicle in the collision, Pete Taylor.

That lawsuit lists the same seven defendants as the Byargeon lawsuit as well as three others — State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Company and the estate of Kerry Byargeon.

The Taylor lawsuit states the wreck was “due partially, if not entirely, to the negligence of Kerry D. Byargeon.”

The lawsuit also states similar claims to the other regarding all seven defendants being at fault for the wreck.

The lawsuit states Taylor and his children sustained severe injuries and have various medical bills because of the accident.

“They have each respectfully suffered loss of enjoyment of life, as well as mental anguish and emotional distress incidental to the injuries received in the accident,” the lawsuit states.

No trial date has been issued in the Seventh Judicial District Court.

Natchez City Attorney Hyde Carby said he is not aware of the city being served in the lawsuit.

“We have not been served; once we are, we will review the allegations, and we will make a further determination,” he said.

Scott McLemore with the Law Offices of Jack H. McLemore, who represent the City of Vidalia, said he received a copy of the lawsuit Wednesday.

“We’ll basically be taking a look at our records and figure out the next step,” McLemore said. “All we can do now is look at the claims and go from there.”

Natchez Chamber of Commerce director Debbie Hudson said she hadn’t been served in the lawsuit either.

“I’ve notified our lawyer, but I don’t know anything else about the lawsuit at this time,” Hudson said.