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80 Years Ago

Archives 08-31-2000



Pioneer Days Pick'n & Grin'n
Wednesday Morning Fire Destroys Home In Rickman
Former Pickett Woman Awarded $160,000 In Suit


Pioneer Days Pick'n & Grin'n

The Pioneer Days Festival returned to the Livingston Square on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, Aug. 24-26. Several bluegrass bands got together for pickin' and grinnin' during the celebration. Locals and out-of-towners joined in the festivities held over the weekend.



Wednesday Morning Fire Destroys Home In Rickman

An early morning fire damaged the home of Tammy Honeycutt on Wednesday, Aug. 23. The Windle Community Road home near Rickman had major damage to one end of the trailer and smoke damage throughout.

Honeycutt's sister, Tabitha Honeycutt, who was at the trailer, reportedly saw the lights flickering and heard crackling before calling 911. The Rickman Fire Department responded minutes later. Firefighters from the Putnam County and Hardy's Chapel fire departments also responded to the scene.

The fire was thought have stemmed from an electrical source.


Former Pickett Woman Awarded $160,000 In Suit

A longstanding lawsuit in Pickett County has been decided by United States District Judge William J. Haynes Jr. Former Pickett County resident Mary Matthews was awarded $160,000 in a case involving the duties of law enforcement officers.

The case was first filed in December 1994. Mary Matthews filed the action against Pickett County and Larry Peek and Dana Dowdy individually and as employees of the Pickett County Sheriff's Department.

According to a report in the Pickett County Press, the claim arose from a divorce proceeding against her late husband, Bill Winningham.

The court documents state, "Based on her husband's prior history of physical and sexual assault, the Circuit Court of Pickett County issued a Protective Order on October 15, 1993 to bar her husband from contacting her and directed all law enforcement officers to arrest her husband in the event that the husband violated the Court's Order."

Matthews alleged that on November 18, 1993, she reported to the Pickett County Sheriff's Office that her husband called and threatened to kill her. Deputies Peek and Dowdy arrived at the Matthews residence and requested Winningham to leave, but did not arrest him, despite the Order of Protection. Winningham did leave the premises.

The deputies also advised Matthews to leave and escorted her to a location outside Pickett County.

The husband returned later to her home to set a fire that destroyed its contents and her pets, as well as riddling her car with bullets.

Matthews claimed the deputies knew her husband violated an Order of Protection and that he posed an imminent threat to her person and property, but failed to arrest him, thereby breaching their special duty to protect her under the State Court Order.

Before the recent ruling, a court ruled the defendants were immune from liability and that Tennessee law did not recognize any special duty to protect Matthews. She appealed to the Sixth Circuit that certified to the Tennessee Supreme Court for a ruling. The Tennessee Supreme Court concluded that the special duty exception did exist under Tennessee law and that it could be applied in this case. The action was then set for a bench trial held June 26, 2000.

The court ruled that Peek and Dowdy breached a special duty, stating "As a result of their breaches of this special duty, the Court concludes that Matthews is entitled to damages against the defendant Pickett County for the loss of her property."

She could not receive anything for emotional distress from the county, but could recover damages from Peek and Dowdy for emotional distress.

"The Court concludes that based on the proof Matthews is entitled to $30,000 in damages for her property loss and $130,000 for the emotional distress she has had to endure for years due to the defendants Peek's and Dowdy's breaches of their duty of special protection of Matthews under the State Order of Protection."

The court document further states, "The Court finds that the facts establish that the defendants Peek and Dowdy were seriously negligent in their failures to honor the State Court's Order of Protection for Matthews. These defendants' failures to arrest Winningham were the proximate causes of the injuries to Matthews, including her mental distress."

The court said the damages were for a breach of duty, not a loss of property.

Counties are required to have insurance with a minimum limit of not less than $130,000. Pickett County Executive Jack Whittenburg told the Pickett County Press that the county's insurance carrier will file an appeal of the ruling.

Bill Winningham was shot and killed on Friday, July 16, 1999. Matthews is now a citizen of Alabama.

Overton County News
415 West Main Street
P.O. Box 479
Livingston, Tennessee 38570
tel 931.823.6485
fax 931.823.6486


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