Our firm, working with Belt & Bruner, a Birmingham firm, has settled a very important case against a national trucking company. On Feb. 9, 2014, Desmond Rachard Woods was driving his 1989 Ford Crown Victoria northbound on Interstate 65 in Autauga County, Ala., when the vehicle experienced mechanical problems and shut off. The vehicle stalled in the right-hand lane of Interstate 65. Woods and two other passengers got out of the vehicle to check under the hood. Kimberly Livingston and Marquita Speer, two sisters, were back-seat passengers in the Woods’ car and remained inside while the others were looking to see why the car had stalled.
While Woods was checking under the hood, a truck driver for a nationwide trucking company drove his 18-wheeler into the back of the Woods’s vehicle. Both vehicles caught on fire and the two women in the Woods’ vehicle were burned alive. An eyewitness to the crash said that the truck driver had been swerving in the highway for miles leading up to the impact. The truck driver testified in deposition that he never saw the disabled vehicle in front of him.
The families of the women were represented by Chris Glover, a lawyer in our firm’s Personal Injury/Products Liability Section, and Robert Bruner with the Birmingham firm of Belt & Bruner. Negligence and wantonness claims were brought against the truck driver and the trucking company. In addition, negligent hiring, training and supervision claims were brought against the trucking company. It was revealed through our investigation that the truck driver suffered from sleep apnea, and that he had lied about his problem to his employer. The truck driver was also taking medication to combat daytime sleepiness and shift work disorder, which he also failed to disclose to his employer.
The truck driver testified in his deposition that he deliberately withheld this information for fear he would not get a commercial driving job. However, he was truthful about his diabetes diagnosis. The driver was still allowed to drive by the company despite its own internal policy not to hire drivers with a glucose of more than 200 mg/dl. Commercial carriers have the responsibility to make sure their drivers are medically qualified. This trucking company had in its possession the driver’s Department of Transportation (DOT) long form indicating he was diabetic. Therefore, he was not medically qualified to drive. The trucking company had no system in place to monitor and enforce its own safety policy regulations and therefore exposed the public to danger and risk of serious harm.
Further, the company lacked any fatigue management program or program to monitor its drivers’ medical exams and medical conditions. Particularly alarming is that this large trucking company stuck its corporate head in the sand and did nothing to determine if its at risk drivers suffered from sleep apnea. Our lawyers know from litigation experience that sleep apnea is a very big problem in the trucking industry, resulting in numerous injuries and deaths.
Our two firms were honored to represent the families of Kimberly and Marquita, and were able to achieve a very good settlement for the families. Chris Glover and Bob Bruner did a very good job in this case. If you need more information on this case, contact Chris Glover at 800-898-2034 or by email at Chris.Glover@beasleyallen.com.
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