Interesting Cases from Around the Country

Trucking Accidents Revisited

We have been talking about truck accidents a lot lately.  As we previously discussed, one reason we keep bringing up truck accidents is that they occur all the time.  In our community we hear of trucking accidents on I-95, I-85, and I-295 on a monthly basis.

Last December, a Texas jury awarded the family of a U.S. Army Veteran $181 million dollars in compensatory damages and $100 million dollars in punitive damages.  (In Virginia, our punitive damages are capped at $350,000).

This is what happened:  Mr. Aguilar, a retired army veteran, was driving his pickup on the highway when the drive shaft from a tractor-trailer broke off and slammed through the windshield of Mr. Aguilar’s pickup.  Mr. Aguilar died.  Mr. Aguilar’s family brought a lawsuit against the trucking company for failure to maintain an adequate maintenance policy with respect to inspecting and lubricating the drive shaft.  Evidence showed that the trucking company was aware of potential drive shaft failures yet failed to take any action to prevent such failures.  The truck accident attorneys working on behalf of Mr. Aguilar’s family hired a metallurgy expert, a mechanical engineering expert, and an economics expert to help present damages and liability to the jury.  The jury found that this tragic trucking accident was avoidable and, by awarding punitive damages, that the trucking company’s actions demonstrated willful disregard for human life.

The take away: Trucking accidents can be catastrophic.  They can also be avoidable.  The right lawyer can help assembly the right team to hold trucking companies accountable for their failures.

Premises Liability:

Premises Liability lawsuits also occur fairly frequently.  These occur when a Landlord fails to maintain or properly ensure the safety, of a common area on a property.  Slip and fall cases are examples of premises liability.  So too are failure to warn cases, such as failure to warn of an open elevator shaft.

Last March, a caterer walked into an open elevator shaft and was severely injured.  The elevator shaft was in the process of being repaired.  There was no caution tape of warning outside the elevator shaft warning of the danger.  The caterer sued the building owner and settled for $675,000 dollars.

Government Liability:

Don’t give up on a case against a public entity.  Governments can be held liable for their mistakes too.  In a case arising out of New York, a bicyclist was severely injured by a defectively repaired road.  Walter Rutland was riding his bicycle on a recently resurfaced state road.  The resurfacing left a “drop off” between the newly resurfaced roadway and the old shoulder.  When Mr. Rutland yielded to traffic from behind, his bike struck the “drop off,” causing Mr. Rutland to crash.  Mr. Rutland sustained serious injuries including /a C2-7 disk fusion resulting in incomplete quadriplegia.  (Mr. Rutland can walk only about 25 feet before needing a wheelchair).

Mr. Rutland and his wife argued that the road was repaired in a defective fashion.  Specifically, they argued that the 2.5 inch “drop off” between the repaired road and the shoulder, should have been included in the repair and that failure to include the “drop off” in the repair was negligent.  The state argued that Mr. Rutland biked this road frequently and knew of the road work.  However, at trial, the judge found in favor of Mr. Rutland.  Before the judge awarded damages, the parties settled for $13 million dollars.  (Rutland v. State, No. 116442 (N.Y., Rochester Ct. Claims June 5, 2013)).

At Cuthbert Law Offices, we are here to help.  Email us at lawyers@cuthbertlaw.com/dev or call us at 1-804-733-3100.  We are available 24 hours a day.