A jury in Tennessee has returned a $2 million verdict in a wrongful death lawsuit. In the case, the plaintiff alleged that a defective guard rail in a construction zone caused the death. The decedent, a tractor trailer driver, lost control of his truck, road along the top of a concrete median barrier and struck the exposed metal end of a negligently installed crash cushion. The crash cushion required a “guard” or transition “piece” be installed to protect people approaching it from the rear. The driver was cut in half in the crash. The driver had been speeding at the time of the crash, but under the applicable law, he was still entitled to a forgiving roadside. The defendants in the case were the construction company that installed the cushion and the State of Tennessee which had inspectors on the scene directing work at the site.
The decedent had $600,000 in lost earning capacity and household services. Defendants argued that speed in heavy fog was the sole cause of the driver’s death. They denied that the installation of the guard rail was negligent. Additionally, the defendants argued that the man would have died even if the guardrails had been properly installed. They actually claimed that being cut in half by the crash cushion was not what killed the man. The defendants asked the jury to return a defense verdict. The decedent had an old cocaine trafficking conviction which was allowed in evidence because it was relevant to his earning capacity. Tennessee is a comparative fault state and the jurors assigned 20% fault to the decedent. Unfortunately, there are a lot of defective guardrail cases out there. Bo Bruner, a Birmingham lawyer, along with Charmaine Nichols, who is with Sid Gilreath’s law firm in Knoxville, tried the case and did a very good job.
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