Attorneys Timothy Whiting, Ashley Marcos, and Jennifer DiVincenzo secured a 9 million dollar settlement against one of the top 30 motor carriers in the United States. A top 30 motor carrier with over $1 billion in annual revenue, operating 3,600 trucks, over 12,000 trailers, and employing more than 4,000 drivers.
This case involved a semi-trailer that separated from the truck and was left in the roadway in the dead of night. Mr. Whiting and his team through skillful motion practice and meticulous deposition strategies were able to uncover that this particular major carrier had an even deeper issue than the failure of this one driver to properly couple his tractor and trailer, but rather a systemic company-wide safety failure that resulted in 312 trailer separations over the course of just 5 years. Mr. Whiting and his team built the case around these other similar incidents (“OSI”) to show a pattern and practice of willful disregard for the safety of others and successfully argued for punitive damages to apply against the company.
But this was far from an open and shut case. Approaching trial, the parties had nearly 500 exhibits, over 30 witnesses, and only two weeks to put it on. Proving the claims at issue (negligence, negligent retention, punitive damages) required a jury to understand off-duty time, the counter-intuitive steps of a pre-trip inspection, and logging violations. The trucking-specific complexities were coupled (pun-intended) with a non-cognitive, hard-to-prove brain injury and the DTI Daubert challenge.
The defense took the position that despite the trailer being left in a highway exit ramp in the dead of night, it was the Plaintiff’s negligence in following a lead vehicle too closely that lead to the accident, and that furthermore the Plaintiff had not actually sustained a traumatic brain injury (“TBI”). To support this position the defense hired 6 experts in nearly every neurological field to offer opinions that the Plaintiff had not sustained a TBI and hired biomechanical experts to show the Plaintiff was contributorily negligent in following too closely.
To counter the defense argument, Tim and his team hired the top expert and animator to build a model to be used to be shown to the jury to prove that our client did not have time to see the unlit trailer in time to avoid it at a very dangerous merge point of his merge lane into the freeway lanes of high speed traffic.
Our client’s injuries were mostly subjective which made the provable nature of his injuries very challenging, especially his brain injury. Our client was young, attractive, and appeared perfectly “normal”. The DTI evidence in this case was particularly critical to prove the extent of the client’s injuries that were otherwise invisible on the surface. DTI being a new medical imaging and diagnostic tool that courts throughout the country are still regularly barring its admissibility as evidence to prove the existence of a brain injury. Through the use of key expert testimony and animations of the collision with various vantage points and following distances, Mr. Whiting and his team were able to erode the defense’s theories of their client’s lack of injury and their client’s purported negligence. This was all a distraction, an attempt by the defense to shift the blame from the systemic corporate safety failures and driver error that lead to 312 trailer separations in 5 years.
Through successful motion practice, Mr. Whiting and his team defeated the attempts to bar admission of the DTI evidence and kept the litany of previous trailer separations admissible as well. Mr. Whiting and his team became the first firm in Illinois to have DTI evidence deemed admissible in the Northern District. They used numerous animations that recreated the collision with different possible following speeds and vantage points to disprove claims of contributory negligence on the part of their client. (See video of animation – link to 2.5 clean copy of animation) Despite the defense consistently failing to acknowledge the severe extent of their client’s injuries, Mr. Whiting and his team obtained key admissions, secured critical evidence, fought for and were granted punitive damages from the court, and ultimately settled the case for 9 million dollars against one of the top 30 motor carriers in the United States.