Trucker Charged in Illinois State Trooper Death, But Wrongful Death Lawsuit Blames Employer

The truck driver who struck and killed an Illinois State Police officer has been charged with reckless homicide, but the trooper’s family blames the trucker’s employer in a wrongful death lawsuit.

Johnny Felton Jr. was driving a truck for Dot Transportation along Interstate 55 outside of Litchfield, Illinois in November when he struck and killed officer Kyle Deatherage, who was 32 years old and the father of two small children. Montgomery County state prosecutors have charged Felton with reckless homicide and operating a tractor-trailer in violation of his driver’s license restrictions that prohibited him from operating a commercial vehicle outside the state of Georgia.

Deatherage’s widow has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Felton’s employer, claiming that Dot Transportation must have been aware that Felton was not licensed to operate a commercial vehicle in Illinois and that Felton should not have driven the truck due to an unspecified medical condition. In January, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued a citation to Dot Transportation for knowingly permitting Felton to drive a commercial vehicle without a proper license.

According to Dot Transportation, Felton had held an interstate license for most of the five years he was employed by the company, but in July when he renewed his license, he checked a box for “intrastate” rather than “interstate,” thus unknowingly restricting his license. Dot Transportation is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Dot Foods, which is based in Mt. Sterling, Illinois and describes itself as the country’s largest food redistributor.

Dot Foods is seeking to transfer the wrongful death lawsuit from Madison County to Montgomery County, where the accident took place.

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