An interesting development occurred during the trial of a lawsuit in a Texas court. Conflicting statements offered by a witness on the stand during a trial resulted in a settlement of the case. Pioneer Drilling Company, in the wrongful death case, agreed to settle for $16 million. The settlement came after three days of testimony in the case which involved the death of Rhonda Kay Henson. The woman’s family sued Pioneer and the driver, Daniel Armstrong, asserting negligence and a wrongful death claim. On September 11, 2008, two large pieces of gas well equipment fell from a Pioneer tractor-trailer driven by Armstrong. One piece, known as a spreader bar, struck Ms. Henson’s truck and killed her.
During testimony, Armstrong admitted to numerous driving infractions and said he was not aware of safety laws and regulations about securing and transporting large loads. Armstrong discussed earlier driving infractions including tickets, accidents, license suspensions and a driving under the influence by a minor citation. Armstrong said he, and other Pioneer officials, falsified and back dated documents in his employee file after the accident that killed Ms. Henson. Company officials also allowed Armstrong to drive a tractor-trailer once after the accident.
Evidence offered during the trial about the handwritten description on a Pioneer company accident report proved contradictory. In a previously-taken videotaped deposition played for jurors, Armstrong said the handwriting, but not the signature, was his. Previously, Armstrong had said neither the accident description nor signature were his handwriting. Over time Armstrong had given different versions of the circumstances of the accident. He had said first that he believed the initial account given by him to the investigating officers was correct at the time. During the trial, however, he admitted that he knew that version was false. Armstrong admitted to having given conflicting testimony in other matters.
Because of his inconsistent statements, the trial judge stopped testimony to give Armstrong a chance to consult with a criminal lawyer. Armstrong never retook the stand and no more testimony was heard by the jury. A settlement was soon reached by the parties. Pioneer’s insurance company will pay $15 million of the settlement, and the company will pay the other $1 million. A Fort Worth lawyer, John David Hart, represented the woman’s family and did a very good job.
Source: Cleburne Times Review
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