More than one study has found that the majority of truck-related crashes -- around 75 percent -- are caused by the car driver, not the truck driver. Yet it's often the trucker and the trucking company that lawyers go after. Here's one case where that strategy failed.
It's not exactly a happy story; the crash cost a woman her life and seriously injured her baby girl. It wouldn't surprise me if the trucker involved still has nightmares about the crash, where he was helpless to do anything to avoid it after a stoned four-wheeler sent him careening out of control.
We got a press release from the attorneys in the case. It explained that a Dallas jury recently found in favor of a Texas-based trucking company and its driver in a lawsuit stemming from the 2004 accident.
Releah McAuley was driving on Interstate 35 near Dallas on Dec. 1, 2004, when her vehicle was struck by a tractor-trailer owned and operated by D&T Trucking, a carrier based in Aledo, Texas. McAuley died in the crash. Her 15-month old daughter survived the accident, but had a severe head injury and numerous fractures and lacerations.
McAuley's family filed suit in Dallas County's 193rd District Court based on claims that D&T failed to properly maintain the rig, and that the company's driver, Thierry Shuri, failed to take proper evasive action.
In defending the company, attorneys Andrew Fifield and Kyle Steele from the Dallas office of Forman Perry Watkins Krutz & Tardy presented evidence that another driver had struck the tractor-trailer, causing Mr. Shuri to lose control of his tractor-trailer before crashing through a concrete median and landing on top of Ms. McAuley's vehicle.
"Our accident reconstruction expert demonstrated that Mr. Shuri was driving safely and had less than two seconds to react to the initial impact. He did everything he could to regain control of his 18-wheeler," said Fifield, lead defense counsel. "The facts proved that D&T and the driver could not have prevented this terrible tragedy."
Testimony during the trial indicated that another driver, William Roe, was driving erratically through heavy traffic before striking the tractor-trailer near its right front wheel. Roe was arrested immediately after the accident and tested positive for marijuana use. He is serving an eight-year prison sentence based on charges related to the accident.
In their verdict delivered on Oct. 5, 2010, jurors voted 10-2 to clear D&T and the driver of wrongdoing, finding that Roe was completely responsible for the accident.
Note: If you'd like to learn about avoiding lawsuits, check out our ongoing series in HDT:
Protecting Yourself From Lawsuits, Part 1: New safety initiatives under way at the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will reshape the legal landscape for trucking.
Safety Technologies and Lawsuits. Widespread adoption of high-tech safety technologies could have a significant impact on litigation -- both good and bad.
Employment Bombshells. In employment there are a number of litigation bombshells waiting to explode in your face if you don't hear -- and respond to -- the ticking you should be hearing.
Sleeping Monster? Sleep Apena Can Create Legal Risks for Trucking Companies.
Upcoming: A Different Approach to Litigation