Oxford fighting several different lawsuits
by Dan Whisenhunt
Staff Writer
May 28, 2009 | 2313 views |  0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
OXFORD — The Oxford City Council went behind closed doors in April to discus one or more lawsuits against it, which is legal under Alabama law.

City Council members could not discuss the details of that meeting, but there are several matters pending against the city, according to court records.

There are at least five ongoing lawsuits against the city, three involving car accidents allegedly caused by employees of the city or city's schools.

The city's finance department said the city's insurance company, Alabama Municipal Insurance Corporation, pays to defend the city from litigation. The city's premiums have steadily increased; the city paid $198,147 for the 2006-2007 coverage year and paid $242,419 for the most recent coverage year.

The company covers insurance, buildings and bonds, the finance department reported. It is paid with the city's general fund.

People suing the city are:

• Sharon Pope Holcomb, widow of Oxford Police Lt. Dexter Holcomb. Lt. Holcomb, a 20-year veteran of the police force, was struck and killed by a school bus while he was directing traffic near Oxford High School in 2007. The school bus lost control when the driver, Mary Mizzell, had a medical emergency.

Sharon Holcomb filed a wrongful death suit in July of 2007 against Mizzell, members of the Oxford Board of Education, the board of education's superintendent and transportation superintendent and the City of Oxford. She said Wednesday the case is still pending.

• Lynn Bryan Dillaha, a Calhoun County pedestrian, was allegedly struck by city employee Barbara Johns Hill. The lawsuit claims Hill negligently allowed the vehicle she was driving to hit Dillaha on Sept. 13, 2004. The suit was filed Aug. 14, 2006.

David Johnston, an Anniston attorney representing Dillaha, said Hill was driving a city-owned transport vehicle.

Johnston said the case is still pending.

• Philip Odus Reaves, an Oxford man who claims city employee Bobby Glenn Hulsey struck him a truck while he was standing near his parked car on Aug. 2, 2007. Reaves filed the lawsuit in February 2008.

His attorney, Charles Rice, said Hulsey was driving a truck for the city's street department. He said the case is in the discovery process.

• Property owner Jerry Sparks is suing the City Council. The council in 2007 declined to vote on a proposal to rezone his property off Leon Smith Parkway for a commercial use. No hearings have been set in the case.

• Jones and Hall Ventures, a billboard advertising company in Georgia, filed a suit against the city in March 2008 for revoking a permit to erect two signs on the Coca-Cola company property on Hamric Drive.

An attorney for the company said he did not know the status of the suit.

Attempts to reach David Stubbs, the attorney who met with the council during their closed door session, were unsuccessful.

Lawsuits against government bodies over employees driving government vehicles are not uncommon. Calhoun County Administrator Ken Joiner said the county's insurance rating has taken a hit because of the number of accidents and has paid more for coverage. The county has also been sued for these accidents.

"The more cars you have on the road, the more exposure you have," Joiner said.
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Oxford fighting several different lawsuits by Dan Whisenhunt
Staff Writer

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