A Philadelphia jury last week awarded a shipper to pay $3.5 million to a truck driver who lost a leg when his tractor/trailer flipped on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and crashed head-on into another truck because its load of steel cables was improperly loaded by the shipper.
But because the jury found that the driver, Frank Kennedy, was also negligent, the award will be reduced to $2.1 million, according to The Legal Intelligencer.
At the time of the 1996 accident Kennedy's trailer was carrying more than 42,000 lbs. of steel coils that had been loaded two hours earlier at the Worthington Steel Co. plant in Malvern, PA.
Kennedy had been hauling freight coast-to-coast for only four months and had never hauled skids of steel coils. This load consisted of five skids of steel coils headed for an affiliated Worthington company in Las Vegas.
Kennedy remained in his truck while the steel was loaded. After signing the bill of lading he said he gave a "quick look" to verify the quantity of skids. He testified that he didn't believe there was risk of the load shifting because of its weight and the short height of the coils. He also claimed that no one at Worthington advised him to secure the materials.
As he was headed west on the Pennsylvania Turnpike another truck driver warned him over the CB that his trailer was leaning to one side. He pulled off at the next exit but truck tipped over as he rounded a turn, landing in the opposite land and colliding with an oncoming tractor/trailer.
Attorneys for Worthington argued that the shipper could not be held liable since Federal Motor Carrier Regulations relieve shippers from all liability arising from an accident that results from the improper loading and securing of a truck. Kennedy's attorneys argued that the courts have routinely held that the shipper is, in whole or in part, responsible for properliading, distribution and securement when it loads the cargo.