Clawson family files $11 million law suit

By Thomas Wilson
STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   The parents of a 20-year-old Hampton woman who was killed while working as a road crew employee last year have filed a lawsuit seeking $11 million against the driver of the vehicle that struck her and the paving company that employed her.
   Filed in Carter County Circuit Court Thursday, Michael and Sherry Clawson are seeking $10 million in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages against Michael L. Burrow, Roger Burrow, and Summers-Taylor, Inc. in the death of their daughter, Rachel L. Clawson.
   Rachel Clawson died after a truck driven by Michael Burrow struck her on June 19, 2002. The civil complaint comes just over three months after Michael Burrow received a judgment acquittal on the charge of reckless homicide in Clawson's death.
   Criminal Court Judge Robert Cupp issued the judgment acquittal on March 12. In a key decision prior to the judgment acquittal, Cupp had ruled not to allow testimony from Sherry Clawson, or from Clawson's boyfriend, that states that Clawson and Burrow, 25, knew each other.
   Assistant District Attorney General Ken Baldwin told the court during the criminal case that Clawson had told her mother during the summer of 2001, when she worked as a flagger for a road construction crew on Highway 91 in the Stoney Creek community, that Michael Burrow had initiated contact with her to ask her out on a date and that she had no desire to go out with him. During the summer of 2002, Clawson again worked as a flagger for a road construction crew on the same stretch of highway, according to prosecutors.
   During the testimony from witnesses for the prosecution, jurors heard from accident reconstruction specialists with the Tennessee Highway Patrol, emergency medical personnel who responded to the scene, and others, including two of Clawson's co-workers who were nearby at the time she was struck by the truck.
   Despite evidence provided by eyewitness accounts and a depiction of the accident provided by law enforcement officers and the accident reconstruction investigators, Cupp ruled that there was not enough evidence to sustain the case.
   Burrow's defense attorney, Jim Bowman, had cited a state Court of Appeals ruling that stated "an accused is not guilty of vehicular homicide if the evidence establishes that the accused's conduct merely constitutes a lack of due care, inadvertence or inattention."
   The suit identifies Michael and Roger Burrow doing business as Burrow Masonry. The lawsuit alleges Michael Burrow operated the vehicle in a "willful, wanton and reckless disregard" for persons working in the construction zone. The civil suit alleges Burrow Masonry is liable as Michael Burrow was operating the vehicle in the course of his employment with the company.
   The lawsuit further alleges Summers-Taylor "negligently managed" the scene of the construction site where Clawson was struck.
   (Editor's Note: Staff writer Abby Morris contributed to this story.)