Resolution's passage ends 7-year lawsuit over county road

By Thomas Wilson

STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   A seven year saga over a county road has reached a conclusion.
   The Carter County Commission voted unanimously Thursday to accept a resolution that would effectively end a lawsuit over a county road in Siam that went all the way to the United States 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.
   The original lawsuit was filed for plaintiff Mary L. Nave versus defendants Carter County, Highway Superintendent Jack Perkins, all 24 sitting county commissioners serving during 1995, both in their capacity as commissioners and individually, and Luther Jean Hassell.
   The suit revolved around a road in the Siam community, known as Queen Nave Road, which had been designated a county road by commissioners in 1995.
   The family of Mary Nave argued that the road was a private road.
   Nave's suit alleged that the county had violated her statutory civil rights of due process under the Fifth Amendment and 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution by designating her driveway as a county road and failing to compensate her for property taken.
   The original lawsuit alleged Hassell had "made misrepresentations and untrue statements to induce the Commission to establish the Plaintiff's driveway as a county road" and were in violation of the plaintiff's civil rights.
   United States District Court Judge Thomas Hull entered a motion for summary judgment against the county and dismissed the civil rights suit against the commissioners, the county and Perkins in 1998.
   The family appealed Hull's ruling to the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, which reversed and remanded Hull's decision in September 2000.
   The U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that the road was a private road and the county's wrongful taking of the road had violated the Nave family's rights under the Fifth Amendment and due process rights under the 14th Amendment had been violated.
   County attorney George Dugger told the commission that the plaintiffs and defendants had appeared before federal court on Friday.
   Dugger told commissioners that the plaintiffs and the insurance company were willing to settle the case if commissioners agree to name a portion of Steel Bridge Road near Wilbur Dam Road for Mary Nave, a bridge at the intersection of Steel Bridge and Wilbur Dam roads for Shirley Montgomery and a bridge in Siam for Queen Nave.
   The cause had reached a compromise, providing the county commission's approval to name two bridges and one road in the Siam community after Nave family members, he said.
   However, the compromise was changed to include three bridges after a citizen on Steel Bridge Road objected to the renaming when she spoke with a representative for the plaintiffs on Thursday.
   Noreen Allen told the commission she and her husband owned businesses on Steel Bridge Road. She said a member of the Nave family had contacted her on Thursday and she had expressed the couple's unhappiness about changing the road name.
   Changing the road would have meant the Allens' businesses would have incurred expenses to change their Web sites and business cards, said Allen. The name change would have also created some difficulties with the county's 911 Emergency system for addresses, Dugger said.
   Thus, the plaintiff's representative had agreed to change the settlement agreement request to three bridges in the Siam community.
   The resolution named three bridges in the Siam community for the Nave family: Mary Nave Bridge, Queen Nave Bridge and Shirley Montgomery Bridge.
   The commission voted 24-0 to approve naming the bridges put forth in the resolution. Had the resolution failed, the case would have been brought back to U.S. District Court in Greeneville on Sept. 3.
   The county won a lawsuit against insurers Lloyd's of London and Northfield Insurance Co. earlier this year after Judge Hull ruled that the two companies breached the terms of an agreement by failing to pay for expenses the county incurred in defending the Nave lawsuit.
   Judge Hull found that the expenses the county incurred in the lawsuit were covered by the insurance policy, according to his order filed in U.S. District Court.
   Dugger said the policy covered insurance expenses between $100,000 and $1 million. The county was covered by a county government insurance pool for the first $100,000 in expenses.
   Mary Nave and her daughter Shirley Montgomery both died during the years the lawsuit was being litigated. Montgomery had been named executrix of the Nave estate on her mother's passing.
   Montgomery's son Michael Nave was named executor of the estate after his mother died.