Judge Awards $18 Million to Couple Injured in Truck Wreck

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that a federal magistrate judge has awarded more than $18 million to a couple after the husband was permanently disabled in a tractor trailer truck wreck in which the truck driver was reaching for a cell phone.

The wreck left Mark Tiburzi, 53, unable to walk or talk. He requires constant care in a nursing home.

The judge ruled that the truck driver and his trucking company must pay more than $13.8 million to Tiburzi and $4.2 million to the wife.

The suit was filed in federal court because the trucking company is located in Alabama. Following a one-day bench trial, U.S. Magistrate Judge David D. Noce found that “it was more likely true than not true” that the truck driver was negligent.

The pileup accident, which occurred on Interstate 64 in St. Louis, also caused three fatalities in other vehicles and a total of 14 injuries. Lydia Miller (55), Alvin Mast (88), and Keith Cason (55) all were killed in the wreck.

Trial is pending on involuntary manslaughter charges against the truck driver, Jeffrey Knight, and at least two other families have civil suits pending against Knight and the trucking company.

Knight, 49, claims that he was reaching for a cell phone when his tractor trailer truck crashed into other vehicles on the interstate highway. Knight and his trucking company, Holmes Transport of Muscle Shoals, AL, were ordered to pay damages. Court documents show that Knight violated safety regulations by driving more than the maximum number of hours allowed in an eight-day period.

Regarding news story about this case on stltoday.com, one reader comments: Even more dangerous than cell phone use is the abuse of hours of driving allowed by the Dept. of Transportation. It is common for a driver to exceed his 11 hours allowed and falsifying his record of duty status is routine. This should not be overlooked as a reason why this accident occurred. A fatigued driver is dangerous. Many trucking companies ignore these violations and dispatch the drivers in such a way that they have to exceed their allowable hours in order to make the delivery schedules. The D.O.T. needs to clamp down on these violations! Here is a scary thought; the driver of that 80,000 lb rig in your mirror is probably half asleep from driving beyond the legal limits. This was a major contributor to the horrible accident in this article.

Indeed, due to the competitive nature of the trucking industry, drivers commonly falsify log books and violate safety regulations. When you combine driver fatigue with driver distraction (such cell phone use), an accident is sure to occur at some point.

In fact, a recent Virginia Tech study found that texting truckers are 23 times more likely to crash.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident, you need an experienced attorney who understands the complex laws and regulations of the trucking industry. If you have any questions, call MLN Law at 404-531-9700 to schedule a free consultation.