Jury slaps Werner Enterprises with $40.5 million ‘nuclear verdict’ in fatal crash
Story by: Clarissa Hawes @FreightWaves
A New Mexico jury awarded the family of a woman killed in a February 2017 crash involving a student driver for Werner Enterprises Inc. around $40.5 million in damages on Oct. 11 following a two-week trial.
“Nuclear verdicts” are described as jury awards in which penalties exceed $10 million.
According to court documents, Felipe “Jose” Johnson, of Apopka, Florida, had only been driving for Werner for eight days when the tractor-trailer he was driving crossed four lanes of traffic and a concrete median and collided head-on with the 2012 Honda Pilot driven by Kathryn Armijo. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
The crash occurred around 8 p.m. Feb. 23, 2017, on Interstate 10 outside of Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Based on the evidence presented at trial, attorneys for the Armijo family alleged that Werner, “through its own inadequate operations and training programs for its student drivers via Roadmaster Drivers School, had a systematic disregard for basic safety policies and training of new drivers.” According to Hawes article in freightwaves.com
This is the second significant verdict against Werner in the past 18 months. In May 2018, a jury in Texas awarded the Blake family nearly $90 million in a fatal crash involving a student driver for Werner.
In that case, a pickup, driven by Zaragoza Salinas, lost control during icy road conditions on Interstate 20 near Odessa, Texas, and crashed through the median into oncoming traffic and was hit by a Werner student driver Shiraz Ali in 2014. Ali and his trainer were also under a just-in-time load at the time of the crash.
Jennifer Blake, a passenger in the pickup, filed the lawsuit against Werner after her 7-year-old son was killed in the crash that left her 12-year-old daughter a quadriplegic. Blake and her other son were also severely injured in the crash. According to Hawes
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Source and credits: freightwaves.com / Clarissa Hawes / iTrucker / Mario Pawlowski