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$1.942 Million Verdict Against Semitractor-Trailer Operator Sets Record In Wisconsin County

January 16, 2009

An Adams County jury returned a $1.942 million verdict today against a trucking company to compensate a husband and wife for personal injuries they sustained in a semitruck crash on July 5, 2006. The verdict set a new record in Adams County and shattered the previous record, which according to the Adams County Clerk of Court, was $378,500.00 in a wrongful death case.

The case involved a trucking company that was illegally hauling a large piece of logging machinery on Interstate 39 in Portage. The owner of the trucking company did not know whether the machinery would fit underneath the highway overpasses, information he could have easily found ahead of time. Ignoring federal and state trucking safety laws that required him to get a permit and safe routing information before the trip, he instructed a semitruck driver to take the semi and load onto the highway and pull over in front of the overpass. The owner also instructed a logger that worked for him to drive ahead of the semi in his own vehicle, pull over to the side of the highway, and try to “eyeball” whether the semitruck and load could fit underneath the overpass.

Proceeding with this dangerous plan, the semitruck driver got onto I-39 South with a load two feet higher than Wisconsin law allowed and stopped the truck in the right lane just before the overpass. The logger then exited his vehicle and ran across both lanes of traffic to a grass median to get a better view. Without looking to see whether any vehicles were coming, the logger then darted back from the median towards the truck. As he entered the left lane, the driver of a 1 Ton Chevrolet pickup truck about 20 feet away was forced to hit the brakes hard to avoid him. Rapoport Weisberg & Sims P.C. clients were traveling in a minivan behind the pickup truck. The husband hit the brakes and tried to bring the minivan to a stop, but it crashed into the back of the pickup truck and sideswiped the semi.

In the collision, the husband, a 45-year-old handyman, suffered a fractured right femur, a fractured left hip and multiple fractured ribs. His wife sustained a forehead laceration and bruising.

Prior to trial, the trucking company claimed that the driver of the minivan was primarily responsible for the crash because he failed to keep a proper interval with the vehicle in front of him resulting in a rear-end collision. The trucking company and its insurer argued that if the jury found the husband primarily at fault, he and his wife would recover nothing, even if the jury also believed the trucking company had some responsibility. The trucking company and its insurer also claimed no Adams County jury would ever award the amount of money it did for these injuries. As a result, their highest offers to settle both cases totaled $460,000.00. At trial, David Rapoport and Joshua Weisberg of Rapoport Weisberg & Sims P.C. proved that the trucking company disregarded trucking safety laws and illegally blocked both lanes of traffic on a 65 mph highway, creating an emergency for the drivers of the pickup truck and minivan. Mr. Rapoport and Mr. Weisberg presented expert witnesses from the Wisconsin Department of Transportation State Patrol and a trucking safety expert, each of whom explained to the jury the trucking company’s reckless and illegal conduct. The evidence against the trucking company was so overwhelming that the trial judge informed the jury before closing arguments that he had determined the trucking company was negligent as a matter of law, and during the defense attorney’s closing argument, he finally admitted the trucking company’s negligence was a substantial factor in causing the crash.

The jury found the trucking company was 80% at fault for the collision, compared to only 20% by the driver of the minivan, and awarded damages in the amount of $1.617 million to the husband, and $325,000.00 to the wife. After the 20% reduction, the verdict amounts to approximately $1.55 million of recoverable damages. After the trial, lead trial attorney David E. Rapoport said, “In the years I have been prosecuting negligent and reckless semi-tractor-trailer operators for causing crashes, injuries and deaths on our roadways, this was as bad a case of neglect as I have ever seen. The trucking company simply chose to ignore all of the laws meant to protect the safety of other drivers on the highway. The jury’s verdict should deliver a strong message to trucking companies and their insurers that such dangerous conduct will not be tolerated. Because of this trucking company’s conduct, a hard working man in his forties will never walk normally and will be in pain for the rest of his life, putting a tremendous strain not only on him but all of his loved ones, especially his wife. We are not surprised the jury understood this and compensated him and his wife properly.”

Rapoport Weisberg & Sims P.C. is a personal injury law firm based in Chicago, Illinois. The personal injury attorneys at Rapoport Weisberg & Sims P.C. have achieved multimillion-dollar verdicts and settlements for individuals with lawsuits arising from medical malpractice, product liability, semitruck and motor vehicle accidents, workplace injuries and construction accidents in Illinois and Wisconsin. Rapoport Weisberg & Sims P.C.’s premier aviation negligence lawyers represent victims of commercial and general aviation disasters nationwide.

If you feel you may be in need of legal services, personally email an attorney from Rapoport Weisberg & Sims P.C. for a free case evaluation or telephone our Chicago office toll free at 877-216-4213.