Earlier this month, a Missouri appellate court issued a written opinion affirming a jury verdict that held a truck driver's employer liable for independent actions that helped contribute to a fatal accident. In the case, Brown v. Davis, the plaintiff's husband was killed as he drove his car across a narrow bridge and was struck by a piece of logging equipment that had been on the back of a flatbed truck owned by the defendant.
Brown v. Davis: The Facts
Davis was the owner of a trucking company that transported logging equipment between Missouri and Illinois. Davis hired his nephew to drive the truck, and Davis was to drive ahead of the rig and make sure that the road was safe for travel. As a part of the truck's journey, it needed to cross the Missouri River, and to do so it would need to cross a narrow bridge.
Davis crossed the bridge first and gave the 'all clear' signal to his nephew. Once his nephew began to cross, however, he was able to see that another car was on the narrow bridge. Thinking that there was not room enough for the two to pass each other, he pulled the truck over to the side of the bridge. As Davis' nephew did so, the side of the bridge struck the logging equipment, and it came free. The equipment then ended up falling off the rig and colliding with the oncoming car. The driver of that car was killed.
The driver's wife filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Davis, his trucking company, and his nephew. The nephew admitted that he was negligent in the operation of the vehicle, but Davis denied that he was negligent. Specifically, Davis argued to the court that he did not owe any duty of care to the accident victim, and even if there was a duty, it was not breached.
At trial, a local sheriff testified that it was standard protocol for any wide truck to arrange for safe crossing across the bridge by calling ahead. The sheriff testified that he had personally closed the bridge on numerous occasions for similar crossings. In the same vein, Davis' nephew testified that he had made other trips for his uncle, and normally he or his uncle would 'close' the bridge themselves. Finally, another driver testified that he was there moments before the accident and saw Davis, but Davis was in a gas station parking lot and didn't see anybody or stop anybody.
The jury found in favor of the plaintiff and awarded her damages of $3,000,000. Davis appealed, making the same arguments he made at trial. However, his appeal was unsuccessful, and the verdict was affirmed.
Have You Been Injured in an Illinois Truck Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been involved in any kind of Illinois truck accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation based on another party's negligence. As was the case above, liability may not be limited to just one party, and it is important to have an experienced attorney examine your case early in the process to determine all the potentially liable parties.