VERDICT SEARCH REPORTS A $1,400,000 SETTLEMENT BY THE TYLER, TEXAS FIRM OF DERRYBERRY ZIPS WADE LAWHORN, PLLC IN AN 18 WHEELER CRASH

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Pictured from left to right: Tab E. Lawhorn, Daryl L. Derryberry, Guy I. Wade, III and Craig D. Zips “Keeping Your Community SAFE One Case At A Time”

On Feb. 17, 2016, plaintiff Wanda Huddleston, 79 and retired, was northbound in a Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck on U.S. Highway 69 near Lindale, Texas. Handrijono Oetomo (“Oetomo”), an employee of DAT Truck Lines Inc. (DAT”), was southbound in an 18-wheeler owned or leased by HNL Truck Lines Inc (“HNL”). It was early morning and dark, and traffic was heavy. Oetomo attempted a U-turn in an open intersection, and Huddleston struck the 18-wheeler. She sustained multiple injuries and later had multiple strokes, which caused her to become mentally incapacitated. The investigating officer gave Oetomo a ticket for failing to yield the right of way.

Huddleston’s son, on her behalf, sued Oetomo, DAT and HNL for Oetomo’s actions in negligently making an unsafe U-turn, failing to yield the right of way and failing to keep a proper lookout. He also sued DAT for violating numerous policies and procedures and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations by not giving Oetomo any driver training, not disciplining him for driver log violations, not suspending him after he was given a citation, and not making a determination of whether the accident was preventable. The plaintiff sued HNL on theories of vicarious liability, alleging that Oetomo was a statutory employee of HNL.

Oetomo took no responsibility for the wreck and blamed Huddleston, in part, because women have slower reflexes.

Plaintiff’s counsel argued that Oetomo was lost and unfamiliar with the area and that he was in a rush, and that he falsified his logs. The truck’s data recorder said the truck had been operating for more than 13 hours, but Oetomo’s handwritten logs said he had been driving for only 7.25 hours.

Plaintiff’s counsel further argued that, under FMCSA regulations, because Oetomo did not understand English well enough, he should not have been driving the vehicle at all.

The defense argued that Huddleston was contributorily negligent for driving too fast, not keeping a proper lookout, not controlling her speed, and not braking or turning in time to avoid the collision. The defense accident reconstruction expert opined that Huddleston should have been able to see the truck and stop before the impact. An eyewitness who was behind Huddleston was able to stop, the defense noted.

HNL further argued that the truck was not a listed vehicle under its insurance policy and that it therefore had no insurance coverage. (Plaintiff’s counsel argued that, because the policy had a particular endorsement, known as an MCS-90 endorsement, the carrier would have to pay any eventual judgment against  Oetomo and HNL.)

Huddleston sustained a leg fracture and a subdural hematoma. She claimed that the accident caused two to three debilitating strokes, as well.

She underwent open reduction and internal fixation (“ORIF”) of the fracture, with placement of pins and screws. For the subdural hematoma, she underwent a craniotomy.

As a result of the strokes, she required 24-hour care and had to move into a nursing home. Plaintiffs’ neurology expert opined that the strokes were related to the accident.

Huddleston sought past medical bills of about $315,000, as well as $918,000 for the present value of her life-care plan. She also claimed past and future physical pain, mental anguish, physical impairment and disfigurement.

The defense neurology expert opined that strokes resulted from pre-existing conditions, not from the accident.

 The case settled for a total of $1,400,000. DAT and Oetemo settled on Sept. 16, 2016, for their policy limit of $1 million, paid by their carrier. HNL settled at mediation on March 6, 2017, for $400,000, paid by HNL’s carrier. HNL’s policy limit under the MCS-90 endorsement was $750,000.

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GM HALTS TRUCK SALES- AIR BAG ISSUES

GM Halts Pickup Sales While Searching for Air-Bag Fix

The issue affects an undisclosed number of 2015 Chevrolet Colorado and GMC Canyon midsized pickups. The air bags were wired incorrectly, which will disrupt the firing process, the company said in a statement yesterday.

“GM is working to validate the correction for the condition,” Alan Adler, a spokesman for the Detroit-based automaker, said in the statement. “Once that service procedure is released to dealers, customer deliveries can resume.”

The largest U.S. automaker is trying to move beyond a year in which it has recalled almost 30 million cars and trucks in North America. Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra faced four separate congressional hearings over the handling of an ignition-switch recall now tied to 23 fatalities.

GM introduced the Colorado at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November, when it touted the vehicle’s capacity to tow greater loads than Toyota Motor Corp.’s Tacoma model. The Canyon, which sold 11 models in September, is the GMC version of the truck. Colorado sales totaled 36 that month. “The volumes are low and there are very few cars in customer hands,” said John Krafcik, president of TrueCar Inc., an auto-buying website based in Santa Monica, California.

Recall Planned

“It comes down to when sales can start again. They’ve started marketing the car, so if a consumer comes in and can’t buy one, then it becomes an inefficiency,” Krafcik said in a phone interview yesterday.

GM is preparing to conduct a safety recall for the trucks, meaning it will notify U.S. regulators and repair the vehicles for free. The company doesn’t know of any crashes, injuries or fatalities connected to the error, Adler said. The automaker has recalled about 26.4 million cars in the U.S. this year. That eclipses Ford Motor Co. (F)’s single-year record of 23.3 million in 2001.

Customers are being notified by overnight letter as well as being contacted by phone to bring their trucks to a dealer as soon as possible, Adler said. Free loaner vehicles will be provided.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jeff Plungis in Washington at jplungis@bloomberg.net  To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jamie Butters at jbutters@bloomberg.net Niamh Ring, John Lear

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DERRYBERRY ZIPS WADE LAWHORN, PLLC  http://www.dzwlaw.com