ROGERSVILLE - The elderly woman involved in a June 11 head-on collision with businessman Roger Stewart has died. Thelma Hughes, 84, of Surgoinsville, passed away Monday. The woman had been celebrating her birthday with her son and a juvenile family member when the wreck occurred. Stewart, 59, 5281 Highway 11W, Rogersville, was officially charged June 27 with reckless endangerment, failure to exercise due care and unlawful removal of registration, but may face additional criminal charges now that the woman has died. On June 26 Rogersville attorney Mark Stapleton, representing Hughes and her son, James Hughes, filed a lawsuit seeking "no less than" $2.75 million from Roger Stewart, Rick Stewart and R & R Auto in connection with an accident in which Roger Stewart was, by his own admission, driving the wrong way on Highway 11W. According to the lawsuit, the accident occurred at approximately 1:35 p.m. and involved Stewart's vehicle and another driven by James Hughes, with Thelma Hughes as his passenger. While the Hughes vehicle was heading east, Stewart was heading westbound in a 2010 Ford Fusion from R & R Auto sales which had, according to court papers, "crossed tags" that actually belonged on a pick-up truck. "As Roger Stewart approached this intersection of Corbin Heights Drive, which would have been to his left, Roger Stewart cut left and then proceeded in a westerly direction in the eastbound lane of Highway 11W. This action by Roger Stewart was an egregious, intentional, and the evidence will be clear and convincing that he intentionally traveled westbound in eastbound lanes of travel further stating to the authorities on the scene that he had done it (driven the wrong way) a thousand times," the lawsuit states, calling the act a "gross deviation from the standard of care that any ordinary person would use." The vehicles collided virtually head-on, according to the lawsuit, and Thelma Hughes sustained "multiple traumatic" injuries including lumbar spine fractures, a sternum fracture, multiple rib fractures and other injuries. The lawsuit, which asked for a jury trial, also sought punitive damages the sum of "no less than" $1 million. According to Stapleton, the lawsuit will be amended to a "wrongful death" lawsuit. Stewart has not yet responded to the litigation. He also faces a September court date on the criminal charges.
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