A truck driver, who now suffers from paraplegia, has won his lawsuit against both Empire Truck Sales and the manufacturer of the seat belt that was used in the tanker involved in his truck accident. He was awarded the largest sum available in the high-law agreement that was offered by the defendant.
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The driver took his tanker truck to Empire Truck Sales for preventative maintenance. At that time, he alleges that the mechanic who worked on the truck failed to replace lock nuts on the lateral control rod.
A month later, he returned to the mechanic, reporting that the truck was abnormally vibrating at high speeds and that it was also making grinding noises. The mechanic once again failed to inspect the lateral control rod. He did determine that the antilock braking system (ABS) did have an issue, but he did not properly fix it.
A few days later while on the road, the driver noticed that the ABS warning light had turned on. He called the shop, and was assured him that the braking system was fine. He continued to drive the truck, and later that day when he applied the brakes, the system failed. The truck careened out of control and crashed.
When the truck crashed, it flipped over. The driver, who was only twenty-seven years old at the time, was taken to the hospital where he was diagnosed with a severed spine. Surgeons attempted to repair the injury, and he underwent extensive physical therapy, but the injury resulted in paraplegia. He is required to self catheterize daily and continues to suffer from depression, PTSD, neuropathic pain, muscle spasms, and pressure sores.
Doctors have estimated that the future cost of his care will be at least $1.7 million.
The driver sued Empire Truck Sales, alleging that they were liable for the mechanic’s negligence. He presented evidence that showed the company had warned the mechanic in the past about leaving parts of a vehicle out of his inspection. He also alleged that they were negligent because a representative assured him that the truck’s antilock braking system was fine when he called to report the warning light had turned on.
He also brought a crashworthiness complaint against Indiana Mills and Manufacturing Inc., and Daimler Trucks North America, the manufacturers of the truck, and the seat belts inside of the truck.
This complaint alleged that the seat belt had a “false latch condition”, which meant that the buckle would appear to be completely inserted, but it was in fact, not. As a result, when the crash occurred, his seat belt came undone and he was thrown against the truck’s cab.
Both the seat belt manufacturer and truck manufacturer settled out of court before trial, for an undisclosed amount.
The case against the Empire went to trial. The defendant's legal team argued that the plaintiff had been warned of the issue with the braking system when he picked the truck up, but drove it anyway. They also alleged that the plaintiff initially reported to his doctors and loved ones that the truck had hydroplaned prior to impact, but changed his story later on.
A high-low agreement was reached, the high amount being $14 million, the low being $2 million.
At the end of the trial, the jury awarded $18.79 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages. Due to his high-low agreement, the plaintiff was given $14 million.
High-Low agreements are designed to create parameters of maximum exposure for the defendant and the minimum amount of recovery for the plaintiff. Once the amounts are set, both parties must disclose the agreement to the court.
This is a way that plaintiffs can rest easy knowing that they will be guaranteed a specific minimum amount if the verdict is in their favor, and the defendant is protected against excessively high verdicts.
Find more reading: 6 Essential Steps After A Truck Crash In New York