The insurance company for the truck driver and trucking company defendants initially offered $375,000 to settle this case. After we filed suit and took depositions of the truck driver and the President of the trucking company and its Safety Director, the defendants requested a mediation which accomplished settlement in the sum of $5 million. Missouri Lawyers Weekly cited this case as the 5th largest settlement in the state of Missouri in 2008.
The subject collision occurred on the Lewis and Clark viaduct that connects Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri. The decedent was driving to work on an interstate highway when the front left tire of her vehicle went flat. The decedent’s disabled vehicle then came to a rest such that it was straddling the right lane of the three-lane westbound highway and a narrow shoulder that was bordered by a concrete wall.
The defendant tractor-trailer driver, an employee of family-owned Trucking Company, struck the decedent’s passenger vehicle in the rear. The gasoline tank of the passenger vehicle was punctured during the collision and the leaking gasoline ignited, engulfing the vehicle in flames.
According to the county coroner who performed the autopsy, the decedent died from a combination of smoke inhalation and blunt force trauma to her thoracic spine. Due to the severe burn injuries the decedent suffered, dental records were necessary to identify her body at autopsy.
After we were retained by the decedent’s family, we retained a nationally-renowned accident reconstructionist, who previously had prepared a reconstruction analysis of the Princess Diana collision for CNN which then broadcast a program devoted to this subject matter. In preparing for the mediation, we prepared a video presentation complete with narration that contained a video animation of the collision, video excerpts of the depositions of the truck driver and the trucking company officials and other data pertinent to the case. At the mediation, which the trucking company President attended, the mediator suggested that we give him permission to show our video presentation. After reviewing the video, the President of the trucking company announced that he wanted the insurance carriers to pay the full amount of coverage ($5 million). This amount was tendered the next day. After we settled the case, the accident reconstructionist began using our firm as a job reference.
Our investigation determined that defendant truck driver had violated numerous rules of the road by: Driving at a speed in excess of the posted speed limit, failing to keep a careful lookout, failing to maintain the ability to stop within the distance that could be seen ahead, and passing other vehicles on the right hand side of the road. We also uncovered evidence indicating that an official of the trucking company prepared a DOT-required report that included a post-collision interview of the driver reciting false information offered for the purpose of exonerating the defendant truck driver.
Our investigation also determined that the defendant truck driver previously had been convicted on a felony conspiracy charge involving the use of an eighteen wheel truck to transport cocaine from Mexico into the U.S., a fact that was unknown to the trucking company until after the collision. In addition, we uncovered evidence that the truck driver had falsified numerous entries on the job application he had submitted to the trucking company seventeen months before the collision. The truck driver’s actual job experience, which we were able to uncover, raised doubt about whether he was properly qualified and experienced as a tractor-trailer driver. The truck driver recited on his job application that he had been driving commercial trucks for the previous six years when, in fact, he had been operating a back hoe for various excavating companies. The truck driver also alleged that he had been previously employed as a full time truck driver during a three-year period when, in fact, he was being held in custody in the Leavenworth Penitentiary on a probation violation.