Texas Appellate Court Affirms $16.4 Million Verdict in Multi-Vehicle Truck Crash Case

An east Texas truck accident case can involve many potential parties and multiple theories of liability. It is important that a family who has been impacted by such a collision retain counsel experienced in this area of the law.

There may be any number of issues that develop during the course of litigation, such as who was negligent and whether any defendant’s employer should be held vicariously liable. Insurance coverage issues may also be present.

Such cases require special care from beginning to end, starting with a thorough investigation of the accident scene and the retention of expert witnesses. It can also be anticipated that any verdict obtained on the plaintiff’s behalf may become the subject of a post-trial appeal.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs in a recent appellate case sought compensation following their loved one’s death in an early morning, multi-vehicle accident that occurred in late November 2013. Three other people also passed away as a result of the accident, and several others were seriously injured. The accident allegedly happened when the defendant truck driver (who was employed by the defendant trucking company) applied her brakes, slid on a patch of ice, jackknifed her tractor-trailer, and then abandoned her truck without turning on the flashers or setting out any reflective devices, thereby causing other vehicles to crash into the trailer and creating a pileup of both big trucks and passenger vehicles. The plaintiffs’ decedent, who was able to exit his vehicle at some point after the initial impact between his truck and the defendant’s, was struck by one of the other vehicles during the series of collisions.

The plaintiffs’ lawsuit against the defendant was tried to a jury, which awarded $17 million in damages, including $500,000 for the decedent’s pain and mental anguish. The trial court entered a final judgment of $16,447,272.31 (which reflected settlement credits of $478,830.00), holding that the defendants were jointly and severally liable for the entire sum. The defendants sought appellate review.

The Decision of the Appellate Court

The Court of Appeals for the Fifth District of Texas at Dallas affirmed the lower court’s judgment. The reviewing tribunal began by addressing the sufficiency of the evidence regarding the defendant truck driver’s alleged negligence, concluding that the testimony of the witnesses at trial (including the driver’s safety supervisor, a meteorologist, a motor carrier expert, and an accident reconstructionist) was legally and factually sufficient to establish that the driver “was negligent in multiple ways.” The court also rejected the defendants’ contention that the driver’s negligence was not the proximate cause of the decedent’s death, holding that the jury could have reasonably concluded that the driver’s initial negligence in jackknifing the trailer and abandoning the rig on a dark, icy highway continued to pose a danger to all motorists who approached the scene thereafter.

With respect to the large amount of the jury’s verdict, the appeals court noted that comparison with other cases was of little or no help except as to the factors to be considered by the jury in assessing damages; rather, each case was to be measured on its own facts. Here, the jury’s award was not so contrary to the overwhelming weight of the evidence as to be clearly wrong or unjust. In so holding, the court noted that the decedent enjoyed a very close relationship with his family and that the family had been deprived of the decedent’s guidance and companionship and suffered severe emotional distress since his death.

Schedule a Free Consultation with a Truck Accident Lawyer in East Texas

At Earl Drott Law, we have over three decades of experience representing injured people. If you have been involved in an east Texas truck accident and need legal advice, please do not hesitate to call us at 903-531-9300 and ask for a free consultation. We will be glad to help you get started on holding the responsible party accountable. Please remember that there is a statute of limitation for the filing of personal injury and wrongful death claims, so it is important that you take timely legal action. If you do not, your case could be dismissed on procedural grounds later on.

Contact Information