Who’s at Fault for Runaway Trucks?

Locals in La Canada Flintridge, California had complained for years that a certain downhill stretch of the Angeles Crest Highway was a runaway truck hazard. In early April, this danger was brought home to La Canada shoppers in horrifying detail.

It was 5:59pm, the most crowded time of day at a busy shopping center at an equally busy intersection in La Canada Flintridge. Melissa Watkins was working the coffee bar of the Flintridge Bookstore and Coffee House. Hairstylist Sandi Susersky, 41, was alone at the B.S. Hair Co. Server Brandi Sjostrom was waiting tables inside the Hill Street Café. Father and daughter Angel Jorge Posca, 58, and Angelina Posca, 12, were seated in their red car in the shopping center’s parking lot.

All were shocked when a double decker car carrier lost control on the descent from the San Gabriel Mountains and came barreling toward the shopping center. According to Watkins, the behemoth truck was jackknifing as it bounced off obstacles in the parking lot and headed straight for the bookstore, where it finally came to a stop after smashing into the store, punching through the wall, and entering an adjoining nail parlor.

Shoppers fled the scene, but a tragic aftermath followed. Twelve people were injured due to the damage caused by the runaway truck. The Poscas were not so lucky. The truck barreled into their car and pushed it 150 feet, killing both father and daughter.

A document printed by the LA Times revealed that California Transportation (CALTRANS) officials were aware of the problem, but asked for “more time” to finish their investigation of the site before implementing a fix. Even though officials asked for more time, in the letter they went so far as to suggest three concrete steps they could have taken that would have prevented last month’s accident. These include:

• Improving signage to reduce the potential for trucks overheating their brakes
• Restricting through truck traffic on the route
• Restoring gravel median truck arrestors

An accident with similar features took place here in Atlanta in March 2007 when a bus driver driving the baseball team from Bluffton University mistook an exit ramp off I-575 at Northside Drive for a continuation of the HOV lane and drove off a bridge, killing the driver, his wife, and five other passengers. Like what appears to be the case in the La Canada Flintridge wreck, the driver took the exit ramp and made the fatal mistake due to improper signage. The State of Georgia paid out $3 million in total as a settlement to all the crash victims. State tort law limits that amount to $3 million per incident, no matter how many victims suffered.

Have you or someone you know been the victim of an accident due to improper signage or other negligence by state or local government? Call MLN Law at (404) 531-9700 for more information about your options in this serious matter.

For more on this story:

2 Dead, 12 Hurt When Big Rig Loses Control in La Canada Flintridge, LA Times