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  • Writer's pictureDennis McCaslin

Judge finds for defendant in unusual automobile tort case stemming from 2019 hit-and-run

Updated: Oct 22, 2022

A Fort Smith judge found in favor of the defendant of a bizarre lawsuit Thursday afternoon in Fort Smith Circuit Court involving a civil complaint brought against a local man concerning a 2019 hit-and-run accident.

Judge Diana Ladd found in favor of the defendant Ever Rivera in an action brought forth by Darla Lackey, who conducted her own investigation after an accident on June 29, 2019 in which two of her vehicles were hit and damaged by an unknown driver.

Lackey's refusal to accept the police finding's in the case led to her filing the civil suit against Rivera, and the ill-fated effort in the courtroom on Thursday in the bench trial led to the judge concurring with the defense about the lack of evidence in the trial.

Lackey was living on May Avenue on June 29 when a vehicle driven by an elderly man left the roadway and struck a car belonging to a neighbor. The impact caused the neighbor's vehicle to impact a 2006 Ford and a 2016 Dodge pick-up belonging to Lackey, totaling the Ford and doing damage to the rear panel of the Dodge.

Fort Smith Police Department Seargent Raymond Stanley testified he worked the aftermath of the accident and said Lackey had called him "numerous times" in the weeks after with possible identifications of the suspect vehicle.

He said he followed up on at least six leads provided to him by Lackey.

Under direct questioning from Rivera's attorney Rex Chronister, Lackey admitted that a witness at the scene "told her" the suspect vehicle was a white truck. From court testimony, it appears that Lackey then conducted her own investigation focused on "evidence" she found at the scene, ncluding a broken piece of a taillight cover and a hunk of "roofing tar".

Stanley said on the witness stand that during his investigation he found "no credible evidence" the Rivera truck had struck the vehicles and that his conclusion was there was no evidence linking the defendant to the accident. During her turn on the witness stand, a defiant Lackey claimed he "had all the evidence she needed" and accused the FSPD of removing evidence from the scene and "throwing it away".

Lackey said the officer "threw away" a hub-cap cover that he took from the scene of the accident.

The judge dismissed the case with prejudice, meaning it can not be refiled in the same court.

(During the proceeding, Lackey's mother had to be removed from the courtroom by the bailiff for verbally harassing this reporter She also verbally assault and threatened this reporter outside the courtroom at the conclusion of the trial and the bailiff had to intervene again.)

As you may recall, Lackey was involved in a legal process earlier in the year when her "non-profit" organization was evicted from a building they were renting from a local businessman. Lackey stormed out of the courtroom after the judge refused to remove a reporter from the proceedings. She failed to show up for her next scheduled hearing because she said she wasn't going to be "ambushed" again and the judge found in favor of the plaintiff for over $4700.

In addition, Lackey is listed as a co-owner in a Fort Smith handyman business that was levied with a $44o0 fine in April for violating contractor laws by performing work on a project over $2000 without having a state-issued contractor license. The business was fined $400 a day for eleven days after a complaint was filed with the Arkansas Contractor's Board by a client for work that was done on the project,

No payments have been made toward the eviction judgment or the contractor fine as of October 21.

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