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Cavanagh Law Group Obtains $1.5M Settlement After Texting Truck Driver Causes Fatal Crash

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CHICAGO — Cavanagh Law Group obtained a $1.5 million settlement in a fatal 2017 crash caused by a semi-truck driver who was texting and driving in a construction zone.

Connecticut resident Raymond Johnson was killed when the semi-truck rear-ended his car on I-70 in downstate Clark County on Aug. 18, 2017. His wife, Ruth Johnson, survived the crash.

According to a police report, semi-truck driver Wayne Kauffman was looking at a text on his phone when multiple cars in front of him began to slow down for a construction zone in the highway’s eastbound lanes. The semi-truck slammed into the Johnsons’ car — setting off a seven-car collision.

“Texting and driving leads to hundreds of thousands of crashes each year,” attorney Timothy Cavanagh said. “This terrible tragedy could have been prevented if the semi-truck driver waited until he was off the road to check his cellphone.”

Cavanagh and fellow CLG attorney Michael Sorich filed a negligence lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois on behalf of the Johnson family on Aug. 23, 2017. It lists as defendants Kauffman, and Larry Wagner Trucking, LLC, which owns the 1999 Kenworth truck Kauffman was driving.

The suit alleges both defendants were negligent in one or more of the following aspects:

  • Failing to maintain proper control over their vehicle to avoid colliding with another vehicle;
  • Failing to reduce speed to avoid colliding with other vehicle(s) on the roadway in violation of 625 ILCS 5/11-601(a);
  • Proceeding at a speed which was greater than reasonable and proper with regard to traffic conditions and the use of the highway, or which endangered the safety of persons or property in violation of 625 ILCS 5/11-601(a);
  • Failing to keep and maintain a proper lookout;
  • Using an electronic communication device while driving in violation of 625 ILCS 5/12-610.2;
  • Failing to supervise its employees and/or authorized agents;
  • Failing to provide adequate training to its employees and/or authorized agents;
  • Failing to decrease speed so as to avoid colliding with Plaintiff’s motor vehicle, despite the fact that said motor vehicle was clearly visible to Defendant WAYNE KAUFFMAN, contrary to and in violation of 625 ILCS 5/11-601, and IC 9-21-5-1;
  • Carelessly and negligently operating the truck at an excessive rate of speed for the circumstances then existing, in contrary to and in violation of 625 ILCS 5/11-601, IC 9-21-5-1, and 49 C.F.R. §392.14, adopted by reference in IC 8-2.1-24-18(a) and 625 ILCS 5/18b-105; and
  • Failing to apply brakes in a timely manner so as to bring his vehicle to a safe stop, contrary to and in violation of 625 ILCS 5/12-301, and IC 9-21-5-4.

Cavanagh and Sorich obtained a $1.5 million settlement in the case. That includes $1 million paid to the Johnsons and two other victims, plus an additional $500,000 in underinsured motorist benefits procured in January 2019.

Magistrate Judge Stephen Williams in the Southern District of Illinois presided over the case of Ruth Johnson and Eric Johnson, Executor of the Estate of Raymond Johnson, Deceased, v. Wayne Kauffman and Larry Wagner Trucking, LLC, Case No. 17-CV-1049.

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