In summary, Swift Transportation Co., probably the largest truckload company in the country, was involved in a fatal accident in Kansas in 2004, where their driver ran a stop sign, hit another vehicle, killing the driver. The jury returned a $36.5 million judgement this week against Swift.
$36.5 million! Why so much? Well, the article is posted below, but I’m reading between the lines. Apparently, Swift could (would not?) produce the logs from the accident, which may have shown whether or not the driver was over hours, or fatigued at the time of the accident. Since they did not produce these required documents, the jury punished them.
Huh. My attorney keeps telling me that if documents disappear following a crash, judges and juries just assume the worst, so apparently that is true. Especially in this case, as no doubt Swift had all kinds of documents other than the logs which would have shown how many hours their driver worked prior to the crash, such as GPS documentation. Was that provided? Probably not. I guess the moral of this story is retain all documents following a big accident, don’t get cute and start “disappearing” things.
It also shows what can happen if you have a fatal wreck, and your driver is violating the rules at the time of the crash. From the Arizona Star:
“Swift Transportation Co., a Phoenix-based trucking giant, has been slapped for $36.5 million in damages in a lawsuit over a fatal traffic crash in Kansas. The verdict, which included more than $13.5 million in punitive damages, was returned Friday after a nearly four-week trial in Maricopa County Superior Court.
Steven Copple, a Phoenix lawyer for the winning side in the court battle, argued that significant monetary damages were warranted in the case because Swift failed to cough up driver logs the company was required to keep under federal regulations. The logs, which Swift claimed it was unable to produce, may have shed light on whether the Swift driver at fault in the crash may have been cruising down a roadway in a fatigued physical state, Copple said. “We were hampered in our efforts to determine if he was, in fact, fatigued,” Copple said Monday. The hefty verdict clearly represents the significance placed by jurors over the loss of a Kansas man who left behind a widow and eight children, ages 13 to 26, at the time of the crash, Copple said.
Robert Greer, a Phoenix attorney for Swift, said the verdict will be carefully reviewed and legal remedies for the trucking company will be sought in the trial court and, if necessary, in the appellate courts. The lawsuit was filed in July 2004 by the survivors of Thomas Steven, 57, of Wichita, the owner of a plumbing-supply business who was killed in a crash near Hutchinson, Kan. The crash occurred in April 2004 when the driver of a Swift rig failed to slow down while motoring at 65 mph on Kansas 61 on a sweeping, flat curve leading to the intersection with U.S. 50, according to court documents filed by Copple. Kevin Jones, the driver, cruised over three sets of rumble strips that are designed to warn motorists of an approaching stop-sign controlled intersection, according to the documents. The driver then ran a stop sign and crashed into a Chevrolet Suburban, killing Steven and seriously injuring two passengers in the vehicle, according to the documents.
“Mr. Jones never did more than apply light to moderate pressure on the brakes,” Copple argued in the court papers. “He never thought about stopping.” Following the crash, Jones was unable to offer an explanation why he failed to stop, Copple argued.”