The family of a Lincoln woman killed in a crash with a Nebraska prison inmate filed a legal claim against the state on Thursday, saying officials need to be held responsible for the prisoner who was allowed to drive a state-owned van.
The claim is the first step toward a $5 million lawsuit for the death of 47-year-old Joyce Meeks, who was killed June 25th when a van driven by inmate Jeremy Dobbe crossed the center line at 18th and Van Dorn and plowed into her minivan.
Meeks' son, Martell Buchanan, says his family wants answers about why officials let Dobbe drive other inmates to and from work-release assignments. "I just don't want my mom's death to just go under the rug somewhere and everybody just forget."
The 35-year-old Dobbe is serving 5-7 years for possession of methamphetamine and has past convictions for DUI and reckless driving.
The family claims the state is liable due to its negligence in using Dobbe in the van driver program, calling him "unfit to safely and competently drive." They hope the lawsuit will teach the state a lesson.
After losing his wife, Leonard Meeks is still at a loss for words. "It's really difficult for me to even sit here and explain how I really feel."
The Nebraska Department of Correctional Services had allowed inmates to drive the vans since 1985. Nebraska Corrections Director Robert Houston announced earlier this month he was discontinuing the policy.