A trucking company, whose driver caused a fiery crash that killed four female relatives, will pay $18 million to the victims’ families. Pro Logistics Inc., its parent company, CenTra Inc., and two CenTra subsidiaries, settled the case after a federal jury found them liable for negligence in the June 2006 deaths of three of the four women. The jury had awarded their children and grandchildren $15 million in actual damages. At the time of the settlement the jury was considering how much to award in punitive damages. The crash killed Beverly Garrett, head of the local federal government employees union and a United Way board member, her mother, Beulah Hunter, and Mrs. Hunter’s sister, Elois Jeans. Also killed was Anita Gibbs, Ms. Garrett’s niece. Gibbs’s husband has sued in a separate action that is scheduled to go to trial later this year.
The evidence at trial revealed that the defendants did not properly screen their drivers and failed to ensure they were getting proper rest. The truck driver is charged with four counts of second-degree involuntary manslaughter and is awaiting trial in that case. The lawsuits alleged that the truck driver was negligent when his tractor-trailer slammed into the rear of the Garrett vehicle on June 1, 2006. Ms. Garrett and her three passengers were headed to a family member’s wedding anniversary when the wreck occurred on an Interstate highway 30 miles east of Columbia, Missouri. According to the Highway Patrol and witnesses, the eastbound tractor-trailer failed to slow down and plowed into a line of seven slowed cars, “strewing them like bowling pins across the highway.” The tractor-trailer then snapped through safety cables, crossed the westbound lanes and jackknifed on an embankment north of the interstate. Two other women, who were relatives, were in a separate car. They were injured in the accident and they settled for an undisclosed amount two weeks before the trial.
Evidence in the case showed that the truck driver had been convicted for reckless driving of his car in 1990 and cited for speeding in a tractor-trailer rig in Ohio in 2002. He had a heart attack and stroke in 1997 and suffered high blood pressure and noninsulin-dependent diabetes. On the day of the collision, the man was taking a large number of prescription drugs that he failed to report on a medical form. This was a classic example of what can happen when a trucking company fails to screen persons seeking employment as drivers. It’s also imperative that these companies have safety programs in effect that both monitor drivers and make sure safety regulations are followed.
Source: Kansas City Star
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