Highway department appeals $3 million ruling in street-racing case

Highway department appeals $3 million ruling in street-racing case

CHARLOTTE, NC (Michael Gordon/The Charlotte Observer) - The legal fight over damages stemming from a 2009 drag racing collision that killed three people south of Charlotte now heads to the state Supreme Court.

In an appeal filed Monday, the N.C. highway department has asked the state's highest court to overturn a $3 million judgment it has been ordered to pay for failing to install a promised traffic signal on N.C. 49 at the main entrance to the sprawling Palisades community.

In 2014, the N.C. Industrial Commission unanimously voted to award $1 million each to the estates of Cynthia Furr, her 2-year-old daughter Mackie, and Hunter Holt, 13. All three died in the April 4, 2009 crash, which occurred after two drivers began racing each other on the trip home from Carowinds, barreling down N.C. 49 at speeds over 100 mph.

Furr and her daughter were trying to turn left onto northbound 49 when they were struck by one of the speeding cars – in which Holt was a passenger.

In separate complaints, the families of the victims said Crescent Resources, which built the Palisades, and the Department of Transportation contributed to the deaths by not installing a promised traffic signal in front of the neighborhood.

In 2013, a jury ordered Crescent to pay $6 million. A settlement was later reached between the estates of the victims and the developer.

Earlier this month, a state Court of Appeals panel voted 2-1 to uphold the earlier industrial commission judgment against the highway department.

The state has argued that the actions of the drivers – who were both sent to prison – caused the crash, not the $200,000 traffic signal that had been promised for years but never installed.

In the department's latest appeal, the attorney general's office has asked the Supreme Court to consider whether the "intentional criminal acts" of the drivers absolve the highway department of liability.

Charlotte attorney Amanda Mingo, who represents one of the families, said the appeal was expected.

"The N.C. DOT does not have to pay interest on the $3 million award as a person or corporation would, so there is no disincentive for appealing," she said Monday. "The families continue to wait for justice and hope the Supreme Court affirms the decision quickly."