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Cell Phone Case Settles for $5 Million

Published February 18, 2010

COLUMBIA, SC (BRAIN)—A U.S. Federal Court judge has approved a nearly $5 million settlement in the case of a distracted driver who allegedly was using a cell phone when she struck and killed two bicyclists three years ago in Lancaster County, South Carolina.

"It's been a long time and a difficult time," said Sherri Hoskins, 52, to The State newspaper of the death of her late husband, Thomas, at 49 in 2007. "We are forever changed, and my kids are fatherless.”

Lawyers for the cyclists’ estate said in pretrial hearings and in court filings, according to The State, that Sharon King was on a cell phone when her Chrysler Pacifica hit Thomas and 43-year-old Lee Anne Barry—that case settled for $2.5 million in state civil court in December.

“We believe the cell phone was the major cause of the crash," said one of Hoskins' lawyers, Dick Harpootlian, to The State.

Defense lawyers were prepared to argue that King had actually laid her cell phone down prior to the accident and that she was preparing to operate her car radio. She also had more than one dog in the car, according to court filings.

"We believe the totality of the evidence would have cleared Ms. King of all exaggerated allegations, including cell phone usage," said defense lawyer Nicholas Gladd to The State.

Gladd, however, went on to say to The State, "Ms. King admitted to an unfortunate distraction which, coupled with the unique combination of vehicles and bicycles together on the same highway, caused the accident.”

Under the settlement agreement, Hoskins will get $3.6 million, and her lawyers $1.3 million.

—Jason Norman

(Lawyer Steven W. Hansen contributed to this story. He can be reached at 562-866-6228. His Web site is www.swhlaw.com.)

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