A jury decided Wednesday that the City of Rolla is not to blame for the fatal accident that took the life of Birdie M. Lenox in November 2005.


A jury decided Wednesday that the City of Rolla is not to blame for the fatal accident that took the life of Birdie M. Lenox in November 2005.

"It's a terrible accident, but she just wasn't paying attention," the city’s attorney Edward Crites said during his closing arguments Wednesday morning.

The accident happened at the intersection of Lions Club Drive and State Route O shortly after the newest portion of Lions Club Drive was opened to the public when Lenox, 79, of Rolla, ventured into Route O without slowing down and struck a Coca-Cola Bottling Co. delivery truck.

Lenox's family asserted that a stop sign had not yet been posted at the new intersection, giving her no warning to yield to oncoming cars.

They asked for nearly $300,000 in damages for medical bills and funeral expenses and additional damages for suffering endured by Lenox in the 30 days between the accident and her death.

The jury's decision means the city will not have to pay any damages.

Once the jury entered into deliberation, the group immediately asked for every piece of evidence they were entitled to view. This included more than 70 statements, photos, items of correspondence and accident diagrams attorneys brought to the court.

They spent approximately two hours reaching their decision.

The jurors were serving their third day of jury duty, having gone through the jury selection process Monday and then hearing testimony all day Tuesday.

Testimony included people who said they drove through the intersection prior to the accident and did not see the stop sign.

Testimony continued Wednesday morning with the police officer who worked the accident, C. Butler, now with the Phelps County Sheriff's Department, and the man who served that officer a subpoena for the trial.   

Those testimonies made for some dramatic closing arguments, as the civil process server Richard Skyles told jurors Butler said he did not remember a stop sign at both sides of the intersection when Skyles delivered the paperwork.
Butler's report, however, clearly marks stop signs in both eastbound and westbound lanes.

The Lenox family's attorney, William M. Wunderlich, fell just shy of calling Butler a liar during closing arguments painting him as a young officer who made assumptions in order to get the report done.

Apparently, none of the jurors bought Wunderlich's version of the truth, as all 12 signed the verdict form indicating that the accident was 100 percent Lenox's fault.

The Ozark Coca-Cola Bottling Company had also been named in the lawsuit but chose to settle out of court before the trial began.