Our firm settled a lawsuit last month during mediation involving a highway construction zone incident. The case was set for trial in Montgomery County Circuit Court for August 15th. We represented two men who were employed by a highway construction firm and who were badly injured in the construction zone incident. In December 2009, the driver of a truck owned by the Sara Lee Corporation was traveling on U.S. Highway 31 at a point clearly marked as an active construction zone. The speed limit in this construction zone was 35 mph. The driver of the Sara Lee truck was going 65 mph – 30 mph over the speed limit – and was not being attentive to the road conditions. On this clear day, the driver failed to observe whether anything was in front of his vehicle.
Without braking, the Sara Lee truck driver slammed into a construction truck parked in accordance with the regulations. The construction truck had activated the flashing amber strobe light on top of the truck and the flashing strobe warning lights at the rear of the truck. The impact caused the truck to hit and injure the two workers who were working near the truck. There were no obstructions that would have affected the truck driver’s view. The road was straight with 3,000 feet of visibility. For some unknown reason, the driver simply wasn’t paying attention to the road and was apparently unaware of the construction zone.
Sara Lee hired this driver as a route sales representative in 2008. As you would expect, a route sales representative for Sara Lee drives a company bread truck on public roads every working day. When he was hired as a driver by Sara Lee, the 24-year-old had been licensed to drive for eight years. Sara Lee performed a background check before hiring the man, which included obtaining a report of his driving record. In the eight years since he received his license, the new Sara Lee driver had received seven citations for negligently operating a vehicle. Between 2002 and 2007, he had received five traffic citations, including three speeding tickets. The last speeding ticket he received was issued just one year prior to Sara Lee hiring him.
Interestingly, Sara Lee marked on the man’s background investigation report that there was a “concern/discrepancy” with his driving record. In spite of the official concerns and discrepancies, Sara Lee hired the man. At the time, he didn’t have a valid Alabama driver’s license, even though he was hired to drive a truck in Alabama. Sara Lee knew they were hiring a driver without an Alabama driver’s license who had multiple traffic citations on his record. We included a negligent hiring claim in our Complaint.
At the time of the incident, all of the construction workers at the site were in their early twenties. Neither of the two Plaintiffs had any health problems before the accident. As a result of the incident, each of them suffered serious and disabling injuries. One of the workers, a 22-year-old, came to the United States from Mexico to work and support his family. As a result of his injuries, one of this young man’s legs had to be amputated below the knee.
The other worker, who was twenty-six years old, is married with a three-year-old son. This young man’s left leg was crushed in the crash and his right leg had to be amputated above the knee. Since then he has undergone extensive corrective surgery. This worker’s spleen was removed, which destroyed his ability to fight off disease and infection. He has not been able to work since the incident and will have difficulty finding employment in the future.
Mediation was ordered by the trial judge and we were able to settle the case for both workers at 8 p.m. on August 4th after a full day of negotiations. The workers’ compensation insurance carrier had paid $850,000 in past medicals and benefits to the two workers. The settlement required the Defendants’ insurance carrier to pay a settlement amount (confidential at the Defendants’ request), the negotiated workers’ compensation lien, and the Medicare set aside amount to pay for our clients’ future medical bills.
Cole Portis, the lead lawyer on behalf of the two workers in this case, did a tremendous job. During the mediation, Kendall Dunson, a lawyer in Cole’s Section, worked out the subrogation issues with the Defendants’ liability insurance carrier and the workers’ compensation insurance carrier. Our firm was proud to represent these men and to help make a difficult situation better. Now each of our clients can reconstruct his life and will be able to take care of his family.
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