Trucker Criminally Charged in November Roadside Death of Illinois State Trooper

By May 7, 2013 July 18th, 2019 Trucking Accidents

Last fall, I wrote here several times about a serious trucking accident near Litchfield, Ill. that killed an Illinois state trooper. In that case, the truck driver’s license was quickly taken away after federal authorities determined that he shouldn’t have been driving in the first place. So as a southern Illinois tractor-trailer accident attorney, I was not surprised to see formal criminal charges for the driver, Johnny Felton, Jr. of Georgia. Felton was charged with reckless homicide and driving in violations of restrictions on his license, which said he could only drive in Georgia. Felton told investigators that he lost consciousness before his truck drifted into the breakdown lane and hit Deatherage, 32, who was on foot because he had just pulled another motorist over. Deatherage left behind a wife, a four-year-old daughter and a ten-month-old son.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Deatherage had recently switched to motorcycle duty because it took place during the day, allowing him to spend more time with his family. He was speaking to a motorist by the side of Interstate 55 when Felton’s truck hit him. According to the charging documents produced by a Montgomery County grand jury, Felton was speeding and did not slow down or change lanes—as required by the Illinois “move over law”—as he approached Deatherage and the stopped driver. The federal Department of Transportation took Felton off the road shortly after the crash, finding that he was an unsafe driver and shouldn’t have been allowed on the road because of a medical condition that causes lapses in consciousness.
Deatherage’s wife, Sarah Deatherage of St. Jacob, has sued Felton, his trucking company, Dot Transportation and its parent company, Dot Foods. Her lawsuit alleges that the company knew or should have known Felton was not a safe driver. Dot Foods issued a statement saying officials simply didn’t notice the change in Felton’s license type when he handed in his renewal papers in July of 2012. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration faulted Dot Transportation for knowingly permitting a driver who was not qualified to operate a commercial vehicle. The Administration said Dot Transportation had had 20 crashes resulting in injuries over the past two years. Until his arrest, Felton continued working with the company, but in a warehouse position involving no driving.
As a St. Louis semi truck accident lawyer, I wish the Deatherage family good luck in their efforts get financial compensation and recover from their loss. In a case like this, where the family’s breadwinner was the one killed, financial compensation is more than just a symbolic penalty for the trucking company. If Sarah Deatherage was staying home with her two young children, this loss may have pushed her back into the workforce out of necessity. Even if she did find reliable childcare and a job, earnings are typically lower for women with gaps in their resumes. Her lawsuit against the trucking company and the truck driver could help her make up for that lost income. And as a Missouri big rig accident attorney, I also believe a lawsuit helps shine a light on negligent behavior by trucking companies that can lead to the deaths of the innocent people around them.


If your family has suffered a loss or a serious injury because of a truck driver’s or trucking company’s negligence, you have rights. Call Carey, Danis & Lowe today at 1-877-678-3400 to talk to us about your rights and your legal options, or send us an email.
Similar blog posts:
Family of Fallen Illinois State Trooper Sues Trucker and Trucking Company For Keeping Him on Road
Authorities Believe Trucker Who Killed Illinois Trooper Should Not Have Been Driving
Illinois State Trooper Killed by Semi Truck During Traffic Stop On Interstate 55