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Woman files suit following husband's death

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Rock from mower crashed through window, killed Paul Dameron

By Calen McKinney

 

The Campbellsville woman whose husband died last year after a rock came through his car window and struck him has filed suit, claiming his death was caused by negligence.

Lebanon attorney Dawn L. Spalding filed a complaint in Taylor Circuit Court on Feb. 18, on behalf of Betty Dameron, individually and as executrix of the estate of Paul Dameron.

Listed as defendants are Terry Mattingly of Springfield and Bush Hog Inc. of Wilmington, Del.

According to the complaint, Mr. Dameron died on July 24, after a rock was ejected from a Legend 2615 Bush Hog, made by Bush Hog Inc. and operated by Mattingly.

Campbellsville Police stated in a news release that Paul Dameron was traveling south on KY 55 at about 3:40 p.m. that day. Witnesses told police that they saw Dameron's vehicle begin to slow and then drift into the other lane of traffic and up an embankment, where it came to rest.

Upon arrival at the scene, police found Dameron, 58, in his red Chevrolet pickup truck. After an investigation, police learned a rock had traveled through the windshield and struck him in the face.

Campbellsville Police Chief Tim Hazlette said a roadside mowing crew, contracted by the state, was mowing in the area and the rock was thrown from one of the crew's lawnmowers.

Dameron was airlifted from the scene by AirEvac personnel and transported to University of Louisville Hospital. He was pronounced dead a short time later.

No criminal charges were filed in Dameron's death.

According to Betty Dameron's claim, Mattingly was using his own equipment to mow the roadway and was negligent in making sure the mowing area was free of rocks and debris. This was a substantial factor in Paul Dameron's death, his widow claims.

Betty Dameron claims the lawnmower Mattingly was using was made less than eight years before her husband's death, and Bush Hog Inc. was negligent in making the equipment.

She claims the lawnmower was "defectively designed" in that its safety measures to prevent a rock heavier than two pounds to be projected were inadequate.

"The [lawnmower] created such a risk of accident that an ordinary prudent company engaged in the manufacture of cutters would not have put this cutter on the market," the lawsuit states.

Dameron’s claim alleges that Mattingly and Bush Hog Inc. are responsible for her husband's death and asks that she be awarded damages, attorney's fees, court costs, interest and a trial by jury.

In an answer filed by Louisville attorney John R. Martin Jr., Mattingly denies any wrongdoing and asks that the claim against him be dismissed.

Mattingly also claims that Betty Dameron's claim is barred by the Kentucky Motor Vehicle Reparations Act, which refers to Kentucky's no-fault injury laws.

At press time, Bush Hog Inc. hadn't filed a formal response to the claim, and there were no court dates set in the case.

Neither Spalding nor Martin returned phone calls to comment for this story before press time.

Hazlette said in July that he doesn't believe the worker operating the lawnmower knew the rock could have been capable of hitting Dameron.

"If there is such a thing as an accident with an unintended consequence ... I think this probably meets the definition of accident."

Hazlette said Paul Dameron and the lawnmower operator, who was not named at the time of Dameron's death, appeared to have both been following all laws and traveling safely when the incident occurred.

Paul Dameron worked at Campbellsville University for 30 years and had served as director of institutional research at CU since 2000.

• A lawsuit presents only one side of a case.