Saturday, November 17, 2018

Franny Fortner's Family Sues

The parents of Franny Fortner sued the city of Jackson, Superior Asphalt, IMS Engineers and several other defendants in Hinds County Circuit Court today.  Franny Fortner  was killed when her Mazda Miata flipped on Ridgewood Road last May when she struck a manhole cover. 



Franny Fortner was driving to graduation practice when her Mazda MX-3 convertible struck a manhole and flipped over around noon on May 17.  The manhole was in the northbound lane of Ridgewood Road near Venetian Way.


The manholes on Ridgewood Road around Saratoga and Venetian Way were a serious concern for quite some time as they were not raised to the level of the road when Ridgewood was resurfaced.  The city raised the manholes to the level of the pavement so that drivers no longer dealt with the large city-created pothole-manholes.

However, several people reported the open manhole to the city of Jackson a few hours before the fatal crash took place.  One woman blew out two tires when she struck the manhole.  She called JPD.  JPD sent a cruiser.  However, the cruiser did not block access to the manhole nor put a detour sign in front of it but instead later drove away, leaving drivers to fend for themselves.   No public works personnel ever arrived at the manhole until after young Fortner lost her life.

Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said at a press conference:

I feel that it is my responsibility as Mayor of this city to be honest to the Fortner family, and to be honest to the citizens of Jackson and acknowledge that the city of Jackson failed to appropriately secure the site at the time we learned that that manhole cover was properly in place.  We owe that responsibility to the Fortner family.


 The Fortners sued Superior Asphalt, IMS Engineers, the city of Jackson, Sigma Corporation, and several John Does.  Sigma manufactured the manhole cover and ring.  Superior Asphalt performed the work of paving the road and installing the manholes.  It is owned by Yates Construction.  IMS was the original project manager for the Ridgewood resurfacing.

 The lawsuit accuses Sigma of manufacturing a defective manhole cover.   IMS and Superior stand accused of failing to notify Sigma of any defects or dangerous conditions created by the allegedly defective equipment.   IMS, Superior, and the city allowed the dangerous conditions to exist and failed to protect drivers.  

The Fortners claim that the fatal manhole cover was not the only on on Ridgewood Road.  The complaint states:
Further, numerous other manholes and manhole covers in the immediate area of this tragedy had malfunctioned , were improperly constructed and/or were improperly installed, causing injuries to other vehicles and vehicle owners prior to the Fortner accident.
The complaint charges the defendants with negligence, defective design, strict liability for failure to warn Sigma, breach of implied warranty,  and gross negligence.   The Fortners seek compensatory and punitive damages. 

Attorney Roderick Ward, III of Stevens & Ward represents the plaintiffs.   The case is assigned to Circuit Judge Joseph Sclafani.





46 comments:

Anon-E-Mouse said...

I empathize with the parents. No parent should outlive their children. No person should die as a result of government policies that mandate minority set asides. When idiots are in charge, there will be engineering failure.

The city of Jackson is reaping the whirlwind after decades of such policies and incompetence. If it were a horse, they’d have to shoot it and put it out of its misery.

Anonymous said...

For The People...

"I have recovered Billions and Billions and Billions."

Anonymous said...

You cannot get blood out of a turnip!

Anonymous said...

I hope they bankrupt the City and force it to surrender its charter. Then the Legislature could run it.

Wait. That would be worse.

Anonymous said...

When you sue a government entity, you are suing the taxpayers. Oh wait, Jackson doesn't have taxpayers, they have bonds.

Anonymous said...

Why aren't manhole covers raised when a street is repaved? Sometimes they are so low it’s like a pothole.

Anonymous said...

Unless the City defendants are held personally liable it won’t matter, “not my money”.

Anonymous said...

End result - I'M is hoing to need one hell of a liability insurance coverage for their screw up on their design specs.

Anonymous said...

Man sues broke city, awarded city hall https://www.apnews.com/910c2e9565cb9609a756812331242a90

Albert Schweitzer said...

Somewhere we are more than wrong, but are intentionally backward.

"Minority setasides" would imply that a certain amount of the city business would be DIVERTED to the minority.

First, this is a pathetic reason to do business. It leads to corruption and incompetence. City business should be done on a basis of competition and competence.

But most of all, the concept is inverted. This phrase would imply that business would be sent to the white businesses. After all, they represent only 20% or less of the population.

If we are to be involved in this silliness, we should at least clarify our definitions.
More convoluted linguistic insanity.

Anonymous said...


The state should takeover control of Ridgewood Dr. as a symbolic move to demonstrate the consequences of incompetency within the City of Jackson. Of course they should siphon off whatever money is needed by withholding sales tax revenue from the city.

Anonymous said...

923 - autocorrect screwed it up. IMS - the engineer who screwed up the design in multiple areas of this contract, caused this tragedy by their incompetent design. Others might get stuck because of our Hinfo County judicial system but when all the details are aired, Rod and John better be prepared to finally have to be on the paying end, rather than their career of taking money for their racially obtained work.

Anonymous said...

I’m terribly sorry for the family. Unfortunately, I suspect that many of you are simply giddy at the thought of Jackson getting sued, no matter what the back story. Very shameful.

Not sure how the family’s claims are going to hold up against the other parties, but qualified immunity generally protects government entities (like Jackson, the State of MS, etc) from liability for harm caused by negligent acts of failure to act. Unless Jackson waived its immunity, I’m not seeing much in the complaint that would survive a motion to dismiss the claims against the City on immunity grounds.

To those of you who are just giddy about Jackson being sued - so sorry to bust your bubble.

Anonymous said...

I respectfully submit that all of you are completely wrong. In this lawsuit there are 5 named defendants, but the ultimate cost of the lawsuit will primarily fall on humongous insurance companies. In all likelihood, these insurance companies (or their reinsurers or excess insurers) are international behemoths that can easily afford to pay just compensation in this lawsuit. Also, if you are worried that the lawsuit will raise your insurance premiums, you are equally wrong. The populations who abuse insurance are located in places like Chicago and western California. By comparison, Mississippi insureds are reasonable people, and to the extent that Hinds County has inflated verdicts, that factor was already calculated into our premiums years ago. Here’s the bottom line: The Fortners deserve just compensation, and I hope they get it.

Anonymous said...

If IMS' quality of work mirrors the quality of their website, they are toast. And the bonehead cop that left should be fired for stupidity. So what happens if Sclafani loses his judicial race as to who gets the case?

Anonymous said...

What is shameful are Jackson apologists who never demand accountability and an end to the complete dysfunction. THAT is shameful.

Anonymous said...

10:59: you clearly don’t know what you are talking about. See the MS Tort Claims Act.

Anonymous said...

Did the contractor ever get "certified?"

Anonymous said...

My sources in the Jackson City Attorney’s office are telling me that they are prepared to argue that she was driving too fast and reckless. FYI Kingfish...

Anonymous said...

Superior asphalt of Yates construction daughter lives off of Ridgewood. Ironic huh. I say superior should pay.

Anonymous said...

That manhole was a problem when I lived on Saratoga about five years ago. It was so bad I had to warn visitors, even repeat visitors, and had to purposely slow to a crawl to get home safely each day while transporting my baby. Even in a full size truck I couldn’t drive that portion of road at the posted speed limit. It was so dangerous. Then there were the times, yes pulural and yes referring to different holes at different dates, I almost drove into a crater in front of St. Andrews Lower School. I pray the Fortner family is compensated and the City wakes up.

Anonymous said...

It's a sad story. If they argue she was going too fast they better have proof. Or that she was on her cell phone. The only thing I don't get is if she was on her way to graduation practice why didn't she turn on old canton if leaving from JA. Its at Christ united Methodist on old canton. She was in north bound lane on ridgewood correct? How close was accident to practice time? Was she rushing to get in an errand before practice started? Or was she so distracted by something she missed the turn and seeing the hole?

Anonymous said...

Yates is the big target. I would not be surprised if the city sues them as well.

Anonymous said...

Yes the city police officer upon notice should have handled this problem, not much different than a loaded gun laying on a children's playground.

Jackson is just dangerous.

Anonymous said...

Stupid hypothetical questions.

Anonymous said...

It doesn't make a rat's ass where she was going or whether she was running an errand or why she didn't turn onto another street or whether she was on her phone. The liability rests with whoever is determined in court to be at fault for the cover being askew.

The dumbest question of all is 'what time was practice'.

Bust My Ass said...

I had a lawyer tell me that in a 'slip and fall' situation, if the business had a yellow cone in place, you would not be successful in suing, since you had been warned. So, if that's true, all Jackson needs to do is post signs all around attesting to unsafe conditions.

Anonymous said...

@11-17...5:25...Everyone concerned is going to cover everyone else...The city, the engineering firm, and the construction company all play well together...it pays well

Anonymous said...

The same construction company was also involved in a fatal accident on I220 just 2 months ago.

Anonymous said...

I admire the Fortner's willingness to spend their time to try to insure no other family experiences a similar tragedy.

That said, I'm disgusted by those commenting who seize this tragedy as an opportunity to cast blame and make political points.

And, few of you seem to understand the stress of legal battles and the personal and financial cost before any reward is realized. There is no amount of money that would be worth it to me.

First, most of you don't seem to understand how government contracts are let or that the owners of road building companies don't have full control over projects...they have to deal with engineers and sub-contractors.

Most of you seem to want perfect government outcomes in service and materials but you don't want to pay the price. You go " cheap" and "cheap" materials is what you get.

Most of you don't hold those of your race or religion you to the same standards you hold those who aren't.

Those of you who look for a scapegoat to blame rather than looking at how decisions are made and what changes could bring better results and reduce the chance of human error.

You look for a single cause for a tragedy when most tragedies have numerous factors that contribute.

You want a simple world that doesn't exist and you aren't helping solve the problem. You prevent problems by being more than superficially addressed. So, another will die because the process stayed the same and created a different road hazard.


Anonymous said...

8:46 - Having read through all of your one-and-two-sentence-paragraph-bloviations; I'll tell you that you're wrong about ONE thing: There is no financial output in a case like this prior to what you call 'reward' if you call the right attorney.

Anonymous said...

Although Rod Ward is a publicity seeking blow-hard, this case will be settled by each defendant, one by one. It is not a hard case and there is plenty of guilt to go around. The City Of Jackson is covered by the Tort Claims Act which limits the amount of money that the city can be sued for. That limit rises slightly every year and is a little more for a wrongful death, but there is a numerical money limit as to what the Fortners can get from the city. All parties know that, and the city is the low hanging fruit here so they will settle first. The other firms have some degree of guilt and their attorneys know that nothing is gained by a protracted open court battle. Their insurance companies will get together and come up with a fair settlement offer that proportions out the blame. Ward will demand 2.5 times that and they will work out the final amount. It won’t go to trial in spite of the likelihood that Ward’s contingency fee percentage probably increases if they actually have a trial. The Fortners will be richly compensated with money but they will never regain their beautiful and talented daughter who was killed in a tragic yet preventable accident. No money can change that.

BTW, nothing about the matter has anything to do with minority set asides , a concept that was used in the 1980s and 1990’s to help emerging minority firms get a foothold in what was then an all-white club. Today they are very rarely used. They served their purpose and are no longer needed.

Anonymous said...

“BTW, nothing about the matter has anything to do with minority set asides , a concept that was used in the 1980s and 1990’s to help emerging minority firms get a foothold in what was then an all-white club. Today they are very rarely used. They served their purpose and are no longer needed.”

You’ve never worked with the City, have you?

Anonymous said...

927, while the language you used may be technically correct - that it has nothing to do with minority set-asides ..... which are rarely ever used - the resulting fact is just the opposite. The engineer on this project - I'M Engineers - received their contract by the process in place at that time of the city of Jackson and it's EBO requirements, along with of course the corrupt 'scoring' practices of the Yarber Administration, admitted to by the former PW director Keisha Powell.

Program specs called for the firm to have its corporate office in Jackson, and meet required minority goals outlined in the City's discriminatory (and illegal) EBO policy.

Yes, minority set-asides are alive and well in all City of Jackson procurements.

The truly sad part about it said...

This tragedy didn't have to happen. ANY member of the traveling public that used that particular section of Ridgewood Rd. on that particular day could have prevented it from happening. Anyone with half a brain could have realized the dangerous situation and just parked their vehicle in the roadway in a manner where no one else could have hit the manhole, turned on their emergency flashers, get out of the vehicle and call the police. Once the police would have arrived, the motorist that took action by leaving their car in the road could have DEMANDED the hazardous situation been taken care of immediately, and the vehicle was going to stay there in the road until the proper authorities were on site to remedy the situation. We give Mayor Chokwe Lumumba, his administration and past administrations absolute hell about the crumbling infrastructure of the City of Jackson. But one thing Chokwe repeatedly states that rings true here: We must work with each other. But in this instance, we didn't. The "not my problem" mentality has consumed too many of us in society. Think about your fellow man once in a while. TAKE ACTION for your fellow man. Again, this tragedy didn't have to happen. We, as the traveling public that were aware of this particular situation let it happen.

Anonymous said...

Upper management at Jackson-The City exists for only two purposes (and has for at least twenty five years:

1) To manage an employment office.

2) Favoritism, Buddy System, Minority Set Asides

Anonymous said...

Weird that you criticized Fortner’s lawyers for being publicity hogs when they didn’t even issue a press release when filing the complaint.

Anonymous said...

Lol @ the idea that you can DEMAND that JPD do anything.

Izzat A Siren I hear.. said...

"...when they didn’t even issue a press release when filing the complaint."

Wait for it, Grasshopper. Be patient.

Anonymous said...

I found Rod Ward to be a good man and good advocate when I needed an attorney. I completely understand that some plaintiffs' lawyers have a negative image, but I found him to be anything but the stereotype that engenders that response. Add in the fact that this is personal to him, since he knew Frannie/knows the Fortners, etc.--I can't help but believe they chose very well when they chose Rod to represent them. I have no doubt that he will follow their preferences regarding any press release, etc. Am I the only one that doesn't care if there's a press release? It would seem to me that this might be exactly the type of situation that cries out for our legal system to address it. No one thinks that any amount of money will give the Fortners any comfort, but perhaps it will cause the City (and the other defendants) to exercise a higher standard of care in the future. One can hope!

Anonymous said...

@1216,
A local resident had an accident in that pothole just hours before this fatal one happened. She called the police and filled out a report. This was in the news the day after the accident. Nothing was done after the first wreck occurred.

Anonymous said...

Paragraph 33: product liability (I was right)
Estate of Frances files wrongful death suit asserting product liability. City of Jackson had to be included because it hired the “creators” of the faulty product. The MS tort claims act may, in fact, absolve Jackson or at best cap it’s liability, but will do no such thing for the privately held companies if the law truly means anything ‘round here.

Anonymous said...

9:15 am You obviously know nothing about litigation.

There will be documents the plaintiff will have to produce during discovery . And, that requires not only time which has a monetary loss attached, and costs associated in obtaining and/or reproducing the documents.

Attorneys don't make house calls for documents that have to be signed or reviewed.

If the insurance companies aren't inclined to settle, this case may take years.

I do sentences instead of paragraphs for reasons that should be obvious.

I do know how many sentences are required for a paragraph but also know how few people will read a paragraph these days.



Anonymous said...

I do sentences instead of paragraphs for reasons that should be obvious.

It is painfully obvious and we feel sorry for you.

Anonymous said...

9:30 - You may 'do litigation' and you may 'do sentences', but you're way the hell off base if you believe a family HAS to put out a lot of money while a personal injury case moves along, or as you called it, 'a reward is realized'. There are several giants out there who will front all these costs, and although you're obviously not one of them, I do know that much about litigation.

And that's ^^^^ what a paragraph looks like.

Anonymous said...

Agree with 9:15 -- 8:46 is a typing bloviator.

And... 10:49 put it to rest for good. Thanks.

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