A jury in Corpus Christi, Texas, awarded $24 million to a woman who was hit by a Coca-Cola truck driver who was talking on her cellphone at the time of a highway crash. The Coca-Cola truck hit the Ford Fusion the Plaintiff was driving. The jury awarded 37-year-old Vanice Chatman-Wilson $14 million in compensatory damage and $10 million in punitive damages. The Plaintiff was injured in the crash and had to undergo lumbar surgery after the 2010 crash.
Coca-Cola has a policy requiring drivers to use a hands-free device when using a cellphone while driving. The company’s truck driver maintains she was using a headset, in accordance with company policy. But the Plaintiff contended that the company’s policy is not enforced and that the truck driver was using the cellphone when the crash occurred.
Coca-Cola said in a statement that the damages awarded to the Plaintiff had no connection to her injuries. Interestingly, Araceli Vanessa Cabral, the truck driver, testified she was not aware of the risks involved in using a cellphone while driving. She testified that had she known of the policy, she would not have used her phone. It appears the jurors were telling Coca-Cola Enterprises to change its policy or at the very least to enforce the one it currently has.
Corpus Christi lawyers, Robert C. Hilliand with Hilliand, Munoz & Gongoles, and Thomas J. Henry with Thomas S. Henry personal injury lawyers, represented the Plaintiff. Mr. Henry had this to say:
We really need better rules, regulations and laws, and corporations need to have a no-cellphone policy while operating a vehicle.
I totally agree with his assessment. Our firm is seeing more and more tragic cases – resulting in deaths and serious injuries – that are caused by distracted drivers using a celllphone or texting. The lawyers in the Texas case did a very good job for their client. Coca-Cola says it plans to appeal the jury’s decision.
Source: Insurance Journal
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