These five large settlements and verdicts for commercial truck accidents show how personal injury law goes to work when carriers, corporations, and parts manufacturers are negligent in their safety-related duties—and people are injured or killed as a result.
#1: Tracey Morgan vs. Walmart
Settlement: $90 million*
In 2014, media outlets thrust the trucking industry into the national spotlight when a fatigued Walmart truck driver smashed into a limo carrying comedians “Jimmy Mack” McNair and Tracy Morgan, and other passengers. McNair died as a result of the accident and Morgan sustained severe injuries, including traumatic brain injury (TBI) and several broken bones.
Truck driver Kevin Roper had been driving 28 hours when he collided with the limo driving 65 mph in a 45-mph work zone. Roper’s fatigue played a role in the accident, according to reports from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), and he “abdicated” his duties to take reasonable measures to protect the safety of other roadway occupants by engaging in two behaviors:
- Driving beyond the 14-hour duty limit
None of the limo passengers were wearing seat belts or head restraints, a factor that contributed to their injuries.
*Walmart agreed to a $10 million settlement to McNair’s children. The retail giant also settled with Morgan for an undisclosed amount, but court documents suggest the amount exceeded $90 million.
#2: Kim Deloach McQuaig vs. Total Transportation
Settlement: $80 million
When a tractor-trailer driven by John Wayne Johnson collided into the back of an SUV in 2015, it served as the catalyst for a chain-reaction, multi-vehicle wreck on Georgia’s I-16. Six vehicles were involved in the crash, and five nursing students died as a result.
The mother of one of these students filed a wrongful death civil lawsuit against Johnson’s employer, a carrier called Total Transportation. The lawsuit stated that Johnson breached his duty of care with the following actions:
- Following too closely behind the vehicle in front of him
- Driving at excessive speeds for the highway conditions
- Failing to maintain an adequate and appropriate lookout
- Driving without regard for existing hazards
The suit also alleged that Total Transportation exhibited negligence by requiring Johnson to wait for 10 hours at the terminal before his truck was ready, then sending him to drive overnight to Savannah, GA, without verifying he was in good condition to drive.
#3: Hoang Le vs. TM Kovacevich International and Weldone Trailer Repair
Settlement: $16.5 Million
In 2015, Hoang Le was driving along I-95 when he noticed that a truck’s diesel fuel tank had dropped and spilled fuel on the highway. To avoid the spill, Le pulled onto the shoulder. Another oncoming vehicle ran across the spill, lost control of his vehicle, and collided with Le.
Le sustained multiple injuries, including traumatic brain injury, requiring several surgeries and physical therapy treatments. Medical professionals evaluated him and found him to be disabled, meaning he could no longer work or drive.
In this action, the plaintiff alleged that:
- Defendant TM Kovacevich (TMK) International, a produce wholesaler, failed in its duty of care to ensure that its trucks were safe to drive
- Defendant Weldone Trailer Repair failed in its duty of care to repair and inspect the truck in a way that would have prevented the fuel tank from dropping
The defendants pointed their fingers to each other, with each alleging that the responsibility ultimately fell to the other party. The final settlement breakdown resulted in Weldone shouldering $950,000 of the $16.5 million settlement and TMK footing the rest of the bill.
#4: Ramiro Munoz Family and Estate vs. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co
Verdict: $33 Million to Plaintiff
In 2013, a cement truck experienced a tire blow-out, rolled over, and “slid down the road,” resulting in a crash that killed Ramiro Munoz.
Munoz’s family and estate filed a wrongful death civil lawsuit against Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., alleging that defective tires caused the accident. The plaintiffs also named DGJ Transport Inc., the carrier for the cement truck, as a defendant in the lawsuit.
An inspection of the left front tire on the cement truck revealed a catastrophic tread separation, a manufacturing defect that the jury determined was a “producing cause of the death.” Accordingly, the jury assigned 90 percent of the responsibility to Goodyear.
#5: Joshua Patterson vs. FTS International
Verdict: $101 Million to Plaintiff
Truck driver William Acker plowed his truck carrying frac sand for oil services company FTS International into Joshua Patterson’s pickup truck.
Although Patterson survived the collision and reported no injuries to the investigating police officer, he eventually was forced to undergo a series of chiropractic treatments and have back surgery on the discs in his neck. The injuries ultimately left Patterson unable to continue his work as a crane operator.
A jury found that FTS was liable for Patterson’s injuries and damages because:
- FTS violated its policy to not hire a driver who had three or more violations within three years of their date of hire.
- FTS had not provided Acker with safety training.
The jury also found Acker liable for a portion of the damages because he had tested positive for both marijuana and methamphetamine after the accident.
All of the award (approximately $75 million of which involved punitive damages against FTS) was levied against FTS, with the exception of $50,000, which the jury levied against Acker.
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