A judge has affirmed a jury’s verdict which found two trucking companies and their drivers responsible for the road-rage-inspired fatal accident which took the life of an innocent driver. The decision means that a $26.5 million jury award will go to the family of the victim.
Utah-based Smoot Brothers and Indiana-based Horizon Transport both had truckers involved in the accident. The incident started on I-84 in Idaho when a Smoot Brothers driver and a Horizon Transport driver were pulling in front and brake checking each other, honking, speeding, and cutting each other off.
Over a distance of about 90 miles, two other Smoot Brothers drivers also became involved. Finally, on a stretch of Highway 20 West near Burns, Oregon, the road-rage came to a tragic end. When one of the Smoot Brothers trucks tried to pass the Horizon truck in a no-passing zone, the Horizon driver allegedly sped up and slowed down to keep the other man in the on-coming lane.
That’s when Sara Allison and her husband Matthew were coming around a bend in the road. With big rigs appearing suddenly, taking up both lanes, the Allisons car smashed straight into Smoot Brothers truck in their lane. Sara died from her wounds while Matthew was severely injured.
Matthew Allison sued both companies and won a negligence suit against them. The jury awarded a total of $26.5 million. However, before the decision, Allison had settled with Smoot Brothers for $900,000. This left Horizon Transport on the hook for $25 million of the verdict.
Since then, Horizon Transport asked the court to reconsider the case, arguing that the plaintiff’s lawyers had used a strategy called the “reptile theory.” This is the idea that jurors are encouraged to ‘send a message’ to companies by awarding victims huge amounts of money.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Patricia Sullivan didn’t buy Horizon’s argument however, and the $26.5 million verdict will stand.