After a fatal accident in 2016, a lawsuit was filed against the truck driver who caused the crash, his carrier, and the carrier’s parent company. A Georgia jury has found all three liable for the death of one of the accident’s victims, and awarded her family what is believed to be the largest ever verdict against a trucking company: $280 million.
Judy Madere, a 58-year-old woman, was riding in a car driven by her daughter when the accident occurred on July 18th, 2016. Her twin sister and two of her granddaughters were also passengers in the car. When Kenneth Cathey’s truck crossed over the center line of U.S. 80 in Alabama and struck their vehicle head-on, all five occupants of the car lost their lives.
Plaintiff’s attorneys claim that the truck crossed into oncoming traffic when Cathey fell asleep at the wheel. Cathey claims that he had swerved to avoid hitting a dog that was in the roadway, though that account has been disputed.
In 2017, Madere’s remaining family filed a lawsuit against Cathey, his carrier Schnitzer Southeast, and parent company Schnitzer Steel. The lawsuit alleged that negligence by the driver and company caused Madere’s death, and that the company knew that Cathey was “inattentive, unsafe, and a danger to the health and safety of the motoring public.”
On August 23rd, the jury deliberated for only 45 minutes before siding with the plaintiffs and awarding Cathey’s family $280 million. The jury valued Madere’s life at $150 million, ordered $30 million paid for her pain and suffering, ordered $100 million paid in punitive damages, and $65,000 in attorneys’ fees.
While Schnitzer Southeast is a fairly small company, parent company Schnitzer Steel is a large publicly traded company with $2.36 billion in revenue in 2018. Still, since the award is thought to be the largest in trucking history, it will likely be appealed by Schnitzer lawyers.
“We continue to extend our deepest condolences to all affected by this tragic accident that occurred in 2016,” A statement put out by Schnitzer reads. “Schnitzer Southeast has accepted responsibility for this accident, and we were hoping for a fair and reasonable outcome for all parties. Unfortunately, we believe the trial was riddled with errors, and we plan to appeal.”
Attorneys for Schnitzer are also busy preparing for another case – they argue a separate case regarding Madere’s twin sister’s death on October 7th. Three other lawsuits stemming from the crash have already been settled.
Meanwhile, Cathey has been awaiting trial for five counts of criminally negligent homicide since his arrest in 2017.