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Old Republic International Corporation Message Board

  • brianandamy brianandamy Jan 15, 1999 6:41 PM Flag

    Old Republic International Makes the 1/1

    An Old Woman Crossed the Road,
    And Negligence
    Sunk to New Low
    Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL (This appeared in the
    January 15, 1999 WSJ)
    Anybody in the insurance
    industry could answer this one: An 81-year-old woman steps
    in front of a big truck on a highway and gets
    killed. What happens next?
    A claim for damages, of
    course. But in this case, it isn't the woman's family
    that is seeking compensation. Instead, the trucker's
    insurance company is charging the elderly dead woman with
    negligence -- and seeking damages from her estate. "I'm not
    paying them for killing my mom," says Joyce Lang, the
    dead woman's daughter. "I'll sit in jail
    The accident happened before dawn one morning last
    July when Gertie Witherspoon of Adrian, Mo., was on
    her way to work. At 81, she was vibrant and active,
    working 50 hours a week at a restaurant called Dave's
    Wagon Wheel, where regulars called her
    Suddenly she had a blowout. Her car careened into a
    roadside ditch. Dazed, she climbed out and walked in front
    of an oncoming grain truck. According to the police
    report, the driver of the rig slammed on his brakes and
    skidded more than 100 feet. But Mrs. Witherspoon was
    pronounced dead at the scene.
    About five months later,
    just before Christmas, Ms. Lang received notice of a
    claim from the grain truck's insurer, Great West
    Casualty Co., for damage incurred by the truck. The amount
    Great Western is seeking: $2,800.
    "Seeing my
    mother's name in print like she was a criminal, I was
    devastated," says Ms. Lang, the executor of her mother's
    Ms. Lang, who first told her story to the Kansas City
    Star, has hired an attorney to fight the bill. "How
    much damage can a 5-foot, 105-pound woman do to a big
    truck like that?" she asks.
    Great West, a unit of
    Chicago-based Old Republic International Corp., won't say.
    Citing company policy, it refuses to discuss the
    specifics of the case. But the company does claim that the
    way in which Mrs. Witherspoon crossed the road was
    "negligent." Rex Williams, owner of Vernon County Grain &
    Supply, the company whose truck was involved in the
    accident, says he has no comment on the matter.
    Scott Rager, Great West's executive vice president,
    concedes that the insurance company's pursuit of $2,800 is
    risky from a public-relations standpoint. "It doesn't
    do anything to help people's impressions of us," he

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