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Wrongful death lawsuit filed against Lauderdale commission
By Tom Smith -

FLORENCE — A wrongful death lawsuit against the Lauderdale County Commission claims a 21-year-old Killen man would still be alive had the county properly maintained a Waterloo road that has been a point of controversy among residents for months.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday by Florence attorney Willson Jenkins on behalf of Laura Ingram, the mother of Cole Sellner.

Sellner, of Killen, was killed in a one-car accident on Paradise Drive on May 30. He was a passenger in the jeep driven by Derek Clayton, of Florence.

Commission attorney Chris Smith declined comment on the lawsuit.

"I have been made aware of the filing, but I have not been able to look over it," Smith said.

"Like all lawsuits, (this one) will be sent to our insurance carrier and we will defend the county vigorously."

Jenkins said Sellner was killed when the driver lost control of the jeep. The vehicle went down a steep embankment on Paradise Drive and overturned.

"His death was preventable," Jenkins said. "Paradise Drive is in terrible condition. It is full of potholes, loose gravel on steep grades, and has no guardrails to prevent vehicles from running off the steep embankments."

Jenkins added Paradise Drive residents have complained to the Lauderdale County Commission for years about the dangerous conditions of the road. He said the residents made their concerns known by voicing them at commission meetings and sending in letters detailing their complaints.

"The residents feared someone would be killed," Jenkins added. "Tragically, one of those letters was sent to the commission only three months before Cole Sellner's death."

Ingram is asking for punitive damages and requesting the maximum amount entitled, but not less than $100,000.

Jenkins said two commissioners, Fay Parker and Rhea Fulmer, who lost her re-election bid in November, were unsuccessful in trying to convince other commissions to repair the road.

"Mrs. Ingram hopes the lawsuit will serve as the final catalyst in making this road safe, not only for the residents who live there, but for all travelers," Jenkins said.

He added the road needs paving or grading, guardrails installed and warning signs posted to alert drivers of steep hills and dangerous curves.

He said those things should have been done before "a young man like Cole was lost due to their indifference and lack of concern for the citizens of Lauderdale County and travelers of Paradise Drive."

Tom Smith can be reached at 256-740-5757 or

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