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Mark Bello
Mark Bello
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Could You Forgive Negligence?

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The families of a Vermont couple, Jason Timmons and Amanda Murphy, killed when a former Fortune 500 executive crashed his pickup truck into their SUV on a New Hampshire highway have settled wrongful death lawsuits related to the crash.

After the December 7, 2013 accident, Robert Dellinger told police he had argued with his wife over medication he was taking for depression and was driving around when he decided to commit suicide. He drove his pickup across an Interstate 89 median at more than 100 mph and into an oncoming car. His truck became airborne and sheared off the top of the couple’s car, killing them instantly. Their unborn child also did not survive. Dellinger was hospitalized for minor injuries, but was arrested after his discharge.

In February 2015, the 54-year-old pleaded guilty to negligent homicide for the deaths of the couple and to assault for the death of the fetus. The Valley News of West Lebanon reported that relatives of Murphy and Timmons tore into Dellinger during the first of the two-day sentencing hearing.

“I have been robbed and violated. I will never see or touch my child ever again,” the newspaper quoted Timmons’ mother, Debbie Blanchard, as saying. “How could you be so heartless? You still have a family; you have taken mine from me.”

The newspaper reported that Dellinger appeared to be deeply remorseful when he said:

“You have my deepest, most heartfelt apology, condolences and remorse for your loss. I am so sorry,” said the 54-year-old Dellinger through sobs. “My guilt and remorse will be with me forever. I ask for your forgiveness, and I pray for your healing.”

On February 20, the day after Dellinger’s guilty plea, Murphy’s estate sued him on five counts, asserting Dellinger was responsible for the deaths of Murphy and the child she was carrying. The suit sought standard compensatory damages, as well as enhanced damages for Dellinger’s “wanton, reckless and grossly negligent” conduct. The Timmons’ estate filed its own suit against Dellinger, seeking standard and enhanced damages. The parties recently settled for an undisclosed amount, but lawyers have until May 31 to finalize documents.

Dellinger was senior vice president and chief financial officer at PPG Industries Inc. before he accepted a $1 million payout upon his resignation in 2011 because of health issues. He also held positions at General Electric, Sprint and Delphi.

While thinking – “how does one make sense of this type of tragedy, I could not help but think back to May 3, 2005 when Tom Wellinger was driving while intoxicated, causing the death of Judith Weinstein and her two young sons, Sam and Alex. I don’t know if it was the similarity in the names of the negligent drivers – Dellinger versus Wellinger, their remorse and plea for forgiveness, or both.

I asked this question almost four years to this day – Could you forgive someone for intentional acts that result in deadly consequences? To ask Mr. Weinstein’s question to Mr. Wellinger – Could you forgive yourself if your negligent actions took the life of someone else?

Mark Bello is the CEO and General Counsel of Lawsuit Financial Corporation, a pro-justice lawsuit funding company.