East Texas Appeals Court Affirms $2.6 Million Verdict in Accident Allegedly Caused by Fatigued Trucker – Rayner v. Dillon

Fatigued driving is one of the leading causes of truck accidents in east Texas and across the nation. Although regulations are in place limiting a trucker’s daily and weekly working hours, not all truckers or trucking companies obey the law.

Instead, they falsify log books and other records to make it seem as if a trucker is resting when, in actuality, he is out on the road. Recently, an east Texas trial court sent a strong message discouraging this practice.

The Facts of the Case

In the case of Rayner v. Dillon, the plaintiff filed suit against the defendants, a truck driver and the company that employed him, in the 62nd District Court for Hopkins County, Texas, seeking compensation for injuries sustained when the defendant truck driver struck her automobile from the rear as he changed lanes. Although the trucker claimed that the plaintiff’s car was in his “blind spot,” law enforcement officials cited him for changing lanes when it was unsafe to do so.

The case was tried before a jury and resulted in a verdict for the plaintiff for actual damages of $1,110,629.76, exemplary damages of $2,000.00 against the trucker, and exemplary damages of $1,679,259.52 against the trucking company. (The jury actually awarded exemplary damages of $3,000,000 against the company, but the trial court reduced the award pursuant to the statutory damages cap codified at Tex. Civ. Pract. & Proc. Code Ann. § 41.008.)

The Appellate Court’s Ruling

The Court of Appeals for the Sixth Appellate District of Texas at Texarkana affirmed the trial court’s judgment in favor of the plaintiff. (The trucking company did not appeal the trial court’s decision as to liability or actual damages but only its determination of gross negligence and exemplary damages award.)

In affirming the trial court’s gross negligence determination, the court reiterated the evidence submitted by the plaintiff, including proof of repeated incidents of log book falsification by the trucker, a U.S. Department of Transportation audit report reflecting 34 critical safety violations by the trucking company, the trucker’s admission that he had been “sloppy” with his log books for years, and proof that both defendants made money when the trucker falsified his log book to show that he was off duty when he was, in fact, driving a truck. The court also made note of the fact that the company president had refused to terminate the trucker despite his repeated log book violations and that the president had testified that it was “his call” and “his company” and that “I can kind of do what I want.”

The court concluded by stating that the evidence submitted by the plaintiff was both legally and factually sufficient to support the trial court’s finding of gross negligence against the trucking company, as well as the punitive damages award against it.

If You Have Been Hurt in East Texas and Need Reliable Legal Advice

If you or a loved one has been involved in a truck or car accident, it is important that you speak to an attorney about your claim as soon as possible. To schedule an appointment with a board-certified personal injury attorney with over 34 years of experience, call east Texas truck accident attorney Earl Drott at (903) 531-9300. He represents clients in and around Tyler and Smith County, as well as other communities throughout east Texas.

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