Every day the brave men and woman of the American Armed Forces put their lives on the line to protect our freedom. So, you’d never expect to lose a marine in the unlikeliest of places – his home town. But that’s exactly what happened to Steven Grest. Grest and a fellow marine were both killed when an 18-wheeler crashed into their small, passenger vehicle. Both marines perished in the wreck. To make matters worse, the insurance company tried to smear Steven’s reputation; evening going so far to say the accident was his fault. When the Joye Law firm got involved, we knew we’d need to work hard to show what really happened. We fiercely battled the insurance company on Steven’s behalf and helped his family secure nearly $500,000 for the incident.
Stephen Greston was on weekend leave from the Cherry Point Marine base in North Carolina visiting his family in Sumter. He was driving with a fellow Marine on Highway 378 in front of a cement plant in Sumter. All of a sudden, a large tractor-trailer loaded down with cement began to pull out from the plant entrance. Stephen tried to swerve out of the way but it was too late. A terrible crash occurred and Stephen and his passenger were killed.
Police arrived at the accident scene and cited the driver of the tractor-trailer for failure to yield the right of way. Later, Stephen’s family attended the traffic court hearing and witnessed the driver of the tractor-trailer plead guilty to the charge.
The family was devastated, with Stephen’s parents having lost their only son and youngest child. Their immediate grief was tough but worsened when the cement plant began raising allegations that their son was somehow to blame for the accident. The defense alleged that Stephen was driving too fast on the highway, even though he had the right of way. They also alleged that Stephen was under the influence of alcohol, even though no one at the scene of the collision detected any alcohol at the scene or on the bodies of the two Marines.
“We knew right then and there we needed a fighter. We needed someone to protect the honor of our son. We are so thankful that Mark took our case and fought for us,” stated Stephen’s mother.
“We definitely had a fight on our hands,” said Mark Joye of the Joye Law Firm. “With these allegations of alcohol and speeding, other lawyers had backed away from the case. But something just was not right about the way this collision was investigated. This collision would not have happened if the tractor-trailer driver had not pulled out onto the highway and now these folks were getting treated wrongly. We were determined to prove the defense wrong and we did,” said Joye.
Initially, Joye began by talking to everyone who was at the scene. 48 depositions were taken in the case to uncover several truths. First, no one, not even the highway patrolmen, could say that alcohol was suspected or detected in this collision. Joye then focused his attention on the actual blood sample itself, and how it was collected. As it turned out, Joye discovered that the blood sample was contaminated because the accepted procedures for collecting a blood sample were not followed. As a result, no one, not even the Chief Toxicologist for the State Law Enforcement Division, the Director for the Forensic and Autopsy Pathology Section of the Medical University of South Carolina, the former President of the South Carolina Society of Pathologists, and an expert hired by the defense, could vouch for the authenticity of the results.
“When we established that, we knew we had won,” said Joye.
Finally, the firm investigated the collision itself, hiring some of the best accident reconstructionists and trucking safety experts in the country to analyze it.
“We were able to prove that Stephen’s vehicle was traveling well under the speed limit at the time of the collision, and we were also able to prove through timed acceleration tests that there was no way the tractor-trailer could safely cross two lanes of traffic from a dead stop as the defense alleged,” said Joye.
The case eventually went to trial in Sumter County. Upon the start of the second day of trial, the case settled for a confidential amount.
The Plaintiff’s opening statement went as follows: “We lost a Marine in the last place we would have ever expected, his hometown streets”.
A thankful father, said, “My son’s integrity and honor were preserved and now we can rest and try to get on with our lives”.