LOUDON — Loudon County is facing a $3 million lawsuit that claims a law enforcement officer allowed an intoxicated driver to drive away from the scene of an accident only to be involved in another accident minutes later.
The case was filed in August in Loudon County Circuit Court by Courtney Lee Slabinski of South Carolina.
Listed as defendants are Loudon County Sheriff's Office Deputy Chad Petty, Sheriff Tim Guider, Loudon County, Western Surety Co. and Tony Edward Goddard.
According to Tennessee Highway Patrol and Loudon County Sheriff's Office reports, Petty responded about 1:45 p.m. Sept. 1, 2014 to a non-injury wreck on U.S. Highway 70 in the parking lot of Eaton's Food Mart, where a 15-year-old Kaylin Goddard, who was not licensed to drive, had hit another vehicle.
Petty reported he wasn't paying attention when he was filling out his report, and the girl's father, Tony Goddard, Lenoir City, drove away in a pickup with Kaylin Goddard, two of her friends and his wife.
About 2:45 p.m., Goddard was driving the truck west on Highway 70 when it went into the eastbound lane and hit Slabinski's vehicle. Slabinski had to be extricated from her wrecked vehicle and was taken to the University of Tennessee Medical Center.
Goddard was charged with second offense DUI, three counts of reckless endangerment, failure to maintain a lane and failure to exercise due care.
A few weeks later Petty was moved from patrol to corrections duty for what Sheriff Guider described at the time as "poor judgment."
Previously a jury found Petty at fault in a case in which he arrested a Loudon County resident and charged him with driving under the influence after he mistook the driver's cerebral palsy as a symptom of intoxication. Jurors awarded the person $80,500.
Slabinski's lawsuit claims Petty had an operational duty to prevent Goddard from driving his vehicle from the Eaton's Food Market while under the influence of intoxicants. The deputy is also accused of "reckless conduct" and "criminal acts," including criminal responsibility and official misconduct.
Sheriff Guider had an operational duty to train and supervise his deputies, the lawsuit alleges.
Loudon County is liable for the actions of Petty, Guider and deliberate indifference to and reckless disregard for the welfare of the public, according to the lawsuit.
Goddard is accused of violating a number of traffic laws, including failure to insure that he could safely operate the vehicle.
Western Surety, the bonding company for the county, is also listed. The company filed a motion to have itself dismissed from the case in October. No action has been taken on the motion.
The lawsuit asks that Petty be removed from the sheriff's office. It also seeks compensatory damages not to exceed $2 million, punitive damages not to exceed $1 million and legal costs.
Attorneys for the plaintiffs and defendants could not be reached for comment.