After a trial lasting a week and only two hours of deliberation, a jury in Muskogee County, GA recently awarded a family $280 million against the steel manufacturer and its truck driver, Kenneth Cathey. Cathey was driving a Schnitzer Steel company truck when he collided with a family, killing everyone in the vehicle.
According to reports, Cathey swerved his big rig truck across the center line on US Highway 80 between Ladonia and Crawford in Alabama. When he veered to the other side of the road, he collided head-on with a passenger vehicle killing five members of an extended family. The accident caused the tragic deaths of a grandmother, her twin sister, her daughter, and two grandchildren.
With the help of an attorney, Larry Madere, the widow of the deceased grandmother, and daughter Anjanette Thomas, filed the suit against Cathey and the steel company. And although Cathey claimed that he swerved to avoid hitting a dog, Madere and Thomas’s attorney provided evidence that showed that Cathey was actually asleep at the wheel.
Sleep Deprivation is Common Amongst Truck Drivers
Sleep deprivation is a leading cause of so many accidents, including those involving truck drivers. In fact, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the and the American Transportation Research Institute of the American Trucking Associations found that 28% of commercial truck drivers have mild to severe sleep apnea.
That means, nearly one-third of the truck drivers on the road today could be at risk for dozing off. And statistics show that in 98 percent of accidents involving a big rig if there is a death, it is the person(s) in the passenger vehicle that is killed. This is what happened in the Schnitzer Steel and Cathey case. Unfortunately, every family member in that vehicle lost their lives that day.
Schnitzer Steel Knew Cathey Was a Danger to Other Drivers
In addition to providing evidence that Cathey was sleeping, the plaintiffs’ attorney also presented information showing that Schnitzer Steel knew Cathey was a dangerous driver. Yet despite this knowledge, they still employed him without providing proper training or discipline.
Unfortunately, this happens all too often in the trucking industry. Whether it's due to a lack of drivers, neglect, or another reason, the trucking and transportation industry is notorious for pushing the boundaries and ignoring safety rules.
Family of Madere Awarded Largest Amount in Muskogee County History
The jury agreed with the plaintiffs and their lawyer and awarded the family the largest dollar amount ever handed out on a verdict in the county. They received $150 million in damages for wrongful death as well as $100 million in punitive damages and $30 million for pain and suffering. And while no amount of money could ever be enough to erase the loss of the five family members in this tragic accident, the verdict will help the remaining family to cover the expenses related to their loss and move on with their lives as best as they can under these horrible circumstances.
While Schnitzer Steel has accepted fault for the accident, they were disappointed with such a high verdict. However, the company has begun to implement new changes to prevent future tragic accidents such as this one.
It Shouldn’t Take the Loss of Human Life for Trucking Companies to Make Changes
It is unfortunate that deadly accidents and stiff penalties are what it takes to bring a company to the point of willingness to make a change for the better.
But sadly, this is the case with so many businesses operating company trucks and large fleets of vehicles. They continue to allow employees to drive dangerously. And then they deny or try to reduce responsibility when their actions result in an accident.
If you or a loved one have been involved in an accident with an 18-wheeler or company truck, don’t work directly with them or their insurance company to settle your case. They do not have your best interest at heart. Regardless of how kind or sympathetic they appear to be, their intent is to settle your case as quietly and for as little money as possible.
And when this happens, not only does it allow these companies to continue operating the way they do, you miss out on the opportunity to receive the full and fair compensation that you deserve.
You CAN Afford Legal Help
There is another option. Personal injury attorney, Jason DeSouza, is dedicated to aggressively fighting for the rights of the victims of trucking accidents. There is no upfront fee for his services. You only pay if you win your case. Give him a call today for your free consultation at 833-JASON-WINS.