Family Brings Lawsuit for Death of Intern Killed by Troopers’ Gross Negligence

Lisa Higgins, the mother of a 22-year-old East Carolina University criminal justice major killed while taking part in an internship program with the North Carolina State Highway Patrol, has filed lawsuits in Pitt County Superior Court and before the North Carolina Industrial Commission alleging gross negligence in connection with her son’s wrongful death. The complaints allege that Omar Romero Mendoza, a state trooper who was not qualified to have an intern as a passenger, violated multiple laws and NCSHP policies when he chose to take ECU intern Michael Higgins on an unauthorized high-speed chase.  The improper chase was tragically short.  Within 30 seconds, while travelling at a speed of over 110 miles per hour, Romero lost control of his vehicle and crashed, killing Michael.

The complaints further allege that Trooper Brandon Cruz was also responsible for instigating this fatal chase.   Cruz had allowed Michael Higgins to ride along with Defendant Romero even though he should have known that under NCSHP policy Romero was not permitted to have interns in his car.  Cruz also told Romero about a woman he suspected may have been drunk, and goaded Romero, who had Michael in his car, to “go stop her,” and that unauthorized pursuit led to the fatal crash.

State highway patrol directives expressly state that “members shall not initiate or engage in a chase with non-sworn members inside the vehicle.”   They also require that troopers immediately notify the communications center that a chase is underway, that they terminate a chase if the trooper is unable to contact the communications center, and that a supervisor oversee the chase.  “These policies were there to protect interns like Michael,” says Jim White, the family’s attorney. “All of the relevant policies were ignored, leading to Michael’s tragic death.”

The complaints allege negligence and gross negligence against Romero and Cruz individually as well as against the North Carolina State Highway Patrol and East Carolina University.

The family is represented by Jim White of the J.C. White Law Group PLLC of Chapel Hill.  J.C. White Law Group handles complex, high-impact lawsuits on behalf of individuals and businesses.

Read the Superior Court Complaint and

The Industrial Commission Affidavit.

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Jim White
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Jim White helps people and companies facing serious financial injury by bringing and defending lawsuits and representing debtors in bankruptcy. He has successfully taken on banks, large financial institutions and other corporations in “David v. Goliath” cases. You can reach him at 919-246-4676.