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Injuries caused by deputy result in $7 million settlement

Published: Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013 9:20 a.m. CDT

DECATUR (MCT) - Almost 16 months after Tom Lennox of Decatur was struck by a Macon County sheriff's deputy's squad car, resulting in the loss of his lower legs, insurers with the county have agreed to a multimillion-dollar settlement.

Macon County State's Attorney Jay Scott reported that a $7.6 million agreement was reached between Lennox and attorneys earlier this month.

Scott said the settlement was the biggest insurers with the county have had to pay for a personal injury suit.

Springfield attorney Jack D. Davis of Davis Law Offices, who represented Lennox, said that while Lennox was satisfied with the settlement, it won't erase the injuries he sustained.

"He has to balance the amount of the settlement against his lifelong needs, including lost wages, prosthetics and all of the other costs that come along with his injuries," Davis said.

About 10:50 p.m. June 29, 2012, Lennox was struck by a Macon County Sheriff's Office squad car, operated by then-sheriff's deputy Brian Duff, in the 2700 block of North Jasper Street. He was retrieving and reloading a mattress and box springs that had fallen out of the bed of a pickup truck in which he was riding.

The truck, driven by Lennox's friend Lloyd Dial, was pulled over with its emergency hazard lights on at the time Lennox was hit.

Pinned between both the squad car and pickup truck, Lennox, then 55, suffered head and leg injuries, and his lower legs were amputated at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana.

Duff, 42, was arrested on a charge of aggravated reckless driving July 17, 2012, and the accident investigation, conducted by the Decatur Police Department's Fatal Accident Investigation Team, indicated he was distracted at the time the accident occurred.

"There is a distraction inside the (squad) vehicle, which causes Duff to stop looking at the roadway for at least 13 seconds, and he fails to see the white S-10 under a street light with its hazard lights blinking," officer Craig Lundy, a fatal accident reconstructionist with the Decatur Police Department, wrote in a police affidavit after viewing in-car video from Duff's squad car.

A forensic investigation of Duff's smartphone showed there was data use between 10 and 11 p.m. of 91 megabytes, but police could not determine exactly what the data use was. Lundy said Duff also had deleted many items from the phone before it was given to police, which affected the recovery process.

A search warrant of Duff's phone records from Verizon showed that numerous text messages to friends stated he did not see the truck, and he wasn't using his phone at the time of the crash. Upon examining his phone records himself, however, Duff acknowledged there was data use at 10:38 p.m. "but claims he does not know what the data usage is," Lundy wrote.

Duff, a seven-year veteran of the sheriff's office, was fired Aug. 29, 2012. He later pleaded guilty to counts of driving too fast for conditions and failure to drive with due care, both petty offenses. A felony charge of aggravated reckless driving was dismissed.

Scott said he was hopeful the settlement would help Lennox with his medical expenses.

"Obviously, this was an extremely unfortunate situation, and we're hopeful that this settlement will help Mr. Lennox move on to the next phase of his life," he said Friday.

Macon County Sheriff Thomas Schneider expressed his sympathy to Lennox and his family.

"No amount of money will ever change the hurt inflicted on all parties involved in this incident," Schneider said. "I am very sorry for the injuries (Mr. Lennox) received as the result of the action of one of my officers."

(c)2013 the Herald & Review (Decatur, Ill.) Distributed by MCT Information Services

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