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County settles $800K driving death case against deputy
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A civil suit brought against the Newton County Sheriff's Office, Newton County, the NCSO's automobile insurance carrier and Deputy Matthew Holbrook, following an automobile accident that killed 36-year-old Paula Michelle Dobbs, has been settled for $800,000.

Dobbs was killed in September 2009 when she reportedly ran a stop sign just inside the Jasper County line and Holbrook, who was speeding, struck her vehicle while driving his patrol car.

According to an investigation by the Georgia State Patrol, Holbrook was driving about 74 miles an hour - more than 30 miles over the posted speed limit. Dobbs was traveling on Rocky Creek Road, which is dirt and gravel and has limited visibility when she pulled into County Line Road and was struck by Holbrook.

Court papers say that the accident was so severe that Holbrook's vehicle was lodged inside the driver's side of Dobbs' vehicle. The accident caused Dobbs to suffer from an atlanto-occipital dislocation, or aninternal decapitation.

In the initial paperwork, it was alleged that Newton County failed to properly investigate Holbrook's qualification and competence before hiring and retaining him.

Dobbs' parents filed the suit since Dobbs was unmarried and had no children at the time of her death. Their initial demands were for "the economic and non-economic value" of her life, including attorney's fees, litigation expenses, medical and funeral expenses, pre-death mental and physical pain and suffering and pre-impact fright.

The initial civil case was filed in February 2011 and dismissed with prejudice - meaning the case could not be filed again, and indicates a final judgment - in September, following the settlement agreement on Aug. 23.

Terms of the settlement were a monetary amount of $800,000 (which is paid by the NCSO's insurance company), the dismissal of the lawsuit with prejudice, no admission of liability, to agree to hold harmless Holbrook, Sheriff Ezell Brown, Newton County and the NCSO's insurance company, for all parties to be responsible for its own attorney's fees and expenses, the plaintiff to pay any court costs and to satisfy other claims or liens and indemnity defendant.

Holbrook is still employed at the NCSO and will not have to come out-of-pocket for any expenses involving the settlement. Immediately following the accident, Holbrook was placed in court services for two years and not permitted to drive a county vehicle during that time.

In February 2011, Holbrook was given a warning for the accident, which stated that "any further violations of this nature would result in more serious disciplinary action up to and including termination." The warning will be removed from Holbrook's file after two years if he has no more violations.