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Alabama Jury Awards $3.5 Million in Logging Truck Fatality

The Montgomery Advertiser reports that the jury in a wrongful death suit deliberated less than an hour before they awarded $3.5 million to the family of James Sanderson, who was killed when two logging trucks crushed his van in a 2008 accident.

On July 22, 2009, a Chilton County jury ordered Ken Gorum Trucking and Gary Fruge, the driver of the logging truck that crashed into Sanderson’s van, to pay $3.5 million to Sanderson’s family.

Attorneys for the family submitted evidence that the truck was being operated at a high speed and with defective breaks in violation of Alabama law.

The accident happened in Elmore County. When a car stopped to make a left-hand turn, one logging truck stopped behind it, followed by Sanderson’s van. The logging truck driven by Fruge could not stop in time, and Sanderson’s van was crushed between the two trucks.

Attorney J. Cole Portis of the Beasley Allen Law Firm in Montgomery said, “I don’t want to be too graphic, but his vehicle was sent careening into the logs in the log truck in front of him, the logs went through the front wind-shield of his car, and one of the logs went through his head and killed him.”

Fruge said he was driving his logging truck at about 45 miles per hour, but Portis argued that the truck must have been going faster.

“If he had been going 45, he had a thousand feet to stop and should have stopped within 360 feet. Based on the evidence from the accident, our expert said he was going somewhere between 65 to 75 miles per hour.”

The lawsuit lasted only two days, and the jury deliberated for less than an hour. Progressive Insurance Company, the insurance company for the defendants, refused to settle the case before trial.

“I am grateful to see that folks in Chilton County value human life and will not accept unsafe trucks traveling on Alabama highways, harming its citizens,” said Portis. “ I know that this jury’s verdict will make a difference in the log truck industry.”

I’m also glad to see that they jury sent a strong message to trucking companies. But I wonder if that message will make a big difference in the trucking industry. As we reported last month, hundreds of shut-down trucking companies are still on the road.

New braking standards for large trucks were recently issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The new standards require that a truck traveling at 60 miles per hours must be able to come to a complete stop in 250 feet. The NHTSA estimates that these new braking rules will save over 200 lives per year. The new regulations will be phased in over the next four years.

If you’ve been injured in a large truck accident, or if you’ve lost a family member in a trucking accident, call MLN Law at 404-531-9700 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your legal options. We’ll help you get the compensation you deserve.