The family of a University of Southern Mississippi student who was killed in a 2018 Thanksgiving Day car crash is suing multiple parties for her wrongful death.
Jada Bright was 23 years old the day she got on Interstate 59 and headed south to spend the weekend with family in her native Slidell.
She was studying public relations, communications and sports management at Southern Miss at the time of the crash.
Bright was traveling south on I-59 when she was in a head-on collision with 48-year-old Shelley Rose, who also was killed in the crash.
Now Bright’s family is suing, not only Rose’s estate, but the governmental agencies who released Rose from jail and the car-rental company who leased her the Dodge Caravan she was driving.
“We have just begun our fight to bring justice for Jada,” family attorney Mary Lee Holmes said in a news release. “Both public and private entities must be held responsible for their reckless disregard and negligent actions that put Enterprise rental car keys back in the hands of a habitual drunk that caused a tragic, high-impact multi-car crash on Thanksgiving Day leaving three people dead and multiple injuries.”
The civil lawsuit was filed in January in Pearl River County Circuit Court but was removed in late April to federal court.
Named in the suit are the estate of Shelley Rose, EAN Holdings, Enterprise Leasing Co.-South Central, Enterprise Holdings, ELCO Administrative Services Co. National Car Rental System, Lauderdale County, Jones County, city of Ellisville, Beech’s Towing and Recovery and unknown entities ABC corporations 1-5 and John Does 1-5.
“Law enforcement of Lauderdale County, Jones County and the City of Ellisville could have prevented Rose from leaving the jails because they had knowledge of her drunken state, multiple previous DUIs and diminished mental capacity, including hallucinations cited by officers,” Holmes said. “Instead, Rose was released back into the public twice on a simple bond just hours apart and continued to wreak havoc on the roadway in the Enterprise van.”
Witnesses say Rose was traveling north in the southbound lanes of I-59 when she struck Bright’s vehicle as well as several others, including one that killed 45-year-old Evens Vincent of Albertville, Alabama. Several others were injured.
She was arrested Nov. 20, 2018, by the Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Department for her fourth offense felony DUI. She was released from the county detention center on a $10,000 bond about eight hours later.
Records show the Ellisville Police Department in Jones County arrested Rose the next day on a public drunkenness charge. Ellisville is about an hour south of Meridian on I-59 and an hour north of Pearl River County.
Rose was released without bail later that night, according to the Jones County Sheriff’s Department website, even though it was her fourth felony DUI arrest.
Less than two days later, Rose was heading north on I-59 when her Dodge Caravan collided head-on into Bright’s Saturn Ion and Vincent’s Nissan Altima. A southbound Honda CRV then crashed into the Saturn and rolled over into the wood line, according to the Mississippi Highway Patrol.
Pearl River County Coroner Derek Turnage said in an earlier story that several witnesses who saw Rose driving the wrong way called 9-1-1, hoping to prevent an accident.
Bright’s estate is seeking punitive, compensatory, special and actual damages in an unspecified amount as well as attorneys fees.
Click here to read the full complaint.
The lawsuit says, “Defendants are liable for all elements of damages, past, present, and future, arising from the wrongful death of Jada, including:
- Damages for the physical pain and suffering of Jada between the time of his injury and death;
- Damages for mental anguish and horror suffered by Jada;
- Damages for the substantial loss of financial support and maintenance including past, present, and future lost income, which Jada provided and would have continued to provide;
- Damages for the loss of protections the wrongful death beneficiaries sustained and the economic losses suffered by his heirs and wrongful death beneficiaries;
- Damages for the loss of love, companionship, society, advice and care of Jada, and wrongful death beneficiaries suffered and will suffer in the future;
- Damages for the funeral and past medical expenses resulting from the death of Jada;
- Damages for the loss and destruction of property, including but not limited to Jada’s 2007 Saturn;
- Damages for net value for the life of Jada;
- Damages for all other losses, both economic and intrinsic, tangible and intangible arising from the death of Jada; and
- Punitive damages pursuant to the Mississippi Punitive Damage Statute, Miss. Code Ann. 11-1-65.”
“As all people are negligent if they knowingly let an intoxicated, incompetent person drive their car, we want to send a message to all car-rental companies that they must make sure the person they rent their car to is competent to drive,” family attorney Cory Ferraez said.
Click here to read response from Lauderdale County.
Click here to read response from Jones County.
Click here to read response from Beech’s Towing and Recovery.
Attorneys for Jones County, Lauderdale County and Beech’s Towing filed responses April 30 denying any culpability for Bright’s death. Attorneys for the remaining defendants have not responded to the complaint, including those from Rose’s estate.
“This Defendant denies that it is liable for any such elements of damages, past, present, and future arising from the wrongful death of Jada …,” Attorney C. Maison Heidelberg wrote on behalf of Beech’s Towing.
William Allen, an attorney for Jones County wrote in the county’s response that all claims against the county should be dismissed.
“(Bright’s estate) is not entitled to recover any enhanced, punitive, or exemplary damages … insofar as any state court claims are concerned,” he said.
Lauderdale County believes it should be dismissed from the lawsuit, saying Bright’s estate failed to “state a claim upon which relief may be granted against Lauderdale (County),” Attorney Lee Thaggard wrote.
In addition, Thaggard said, “Lauderdale (County) possesses absolute immunity … from suit and/or liability and/or damages.”
Disclaimer: This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. For specific legal guidance on your case, please contact The Mines Law Firm for representation.