Life isn’t always something you see coming, and sometimes the worst happens with equally terrible timing. Such was the case for Delmer Dillard when he was driving himself and passenger Wanda Denson to a Thanksgiving reunion in Bloomington, Indiana in November 2016. Dillard abruptly passed out during the drive, and the vehicle subsequently smashed into a home near Morgantown. Denson was injured badly enough that she racked up about $400,000 in medical bills.
Dillard wasn’t so lucky.
Authorities found he had suffered a heart attack before the crash, but he died at the scene. Denson decided that there was cause to sue for negligence, arguing that Dillard had been driving illegally while incapacitated and that he should have had enough time to stop the car before the accident could have occurred. She waited five months to file her complaint against Dillard’s estate. She sought damages for her medical bills. She used her own car insurance in an attempt to claim uninsured motorist benefits.
According to the Dillard estate, there was no time for him to deliberate or take a moment to get off the road. Part of the lawsuit details how Dillard had suffered a prior heart attack only six weeks earlier, at which time he was provided with healthcare in his own home. His doctors did not specifically bar him from driving after extensive stress tests. The judge was able to view hospital records and his cardiologist’s notes and decided in favor of the Dillard estate as part of a summary judgment.
Denson unsurprisingly appealed, but the appellate court failed to deliver her a victory. It decided that her arguments were based primarily on conjecture and supposition, with little if any fact to build a case. The court went on to describe how “this evidence does not equate to knowledge of peril or create an inference that a reasonable man in Dillard’s position would have altered his behavior.”
These legal decisions were based mostly on the lack of a doctor’s opinion that Dillard should not have been driving based on the earlier heart attack, and the lack of symptoms before he got behind the wheel, both of which would have otherwise turned the case in Denson’s favor. Denson’s personal injury case was therefore dismissed entirely.