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Nebraska to pay $2 million after prisoner causes fatal crash

By   /   March 11, 2014  /   News  /   No Comments

By Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog

LINCOLN, Neb. — Lawmakers gave initial approval Tuesday to a $2 million settlement with the family of a woman who was struck and killed by a van driven by a prisoner in Lincoln.

Department of Corrections

PRISONER: Jeremy Dobbe faces a manslaughter charge in connection with the crash that killed a Lincoln woman.

Joyce Meeks, 47, was driving home from work in June when she was struck and killed by a van that had been speeding and erratically swerving before the crash. Its driver was Jeremy Dobbe, a prisoner who was en route to pick up other prisoners on work release.

The settlement, if it gets final approval and is signed by the governor, would resolve a $5 million claim against the state that Meeks’ son and husband filed in July. Six months later, when the state claims board failed to take action on the claim, they filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the state and Dobbe, claiming he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the crash.

The settlement was tacked onto a budget bill Tuesday as a last-minute amendment to a bill with several state claims. Omaha Sen. Steve Lathrop said the settlement was recently approved by the attorney general’s office.

Tim Cavanagh, the attorney for Meeks’ husband, Leonard, and son, Martell Buchanan, said he could not comment until the case is resolved.

Two weeks after the fatal accident, the state ended the 28-year-old program that allowed inmates to drive other inmates around.

Contact Deena Winter at deena@nebraskawatchdog.org.

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Deena is an investigative reporter for Nebraska Watchdog. She has worked in the journalism field for over 25 years, writing for the Associated Press, Northwood Gleaner, Bismarck Tribune, Denver Post, and Lincoln Journal Star. Deena can be reached on Twitter at @DeenaNEWatchdog at by email at deena@nebraskawatchdog.org.