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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Derryberry Zips Wade Lawhorn, PLLC Announces A $400,000 Settlement of A Commercial Truck Wreck Case as Reported by Verdict Search

Our client, age 52, and employed as an inventory specialist, was turning into her employer’s parking lot from a two-lane road in Tyler, Texas. Austin Gray, in a Ford F-350 pickup, attempted to pass her on the right, and the vehicles collided. Our client was in a mid-size sedan. Gray was in the course and scope of his employment with LCR-M, L.P. He received a ticket for passing unsafely on the right and did not contest the ticket.

Our client sued Gray for passing unsafely on the right and causing the wreck. She also sued LCR-M under respondeat superior. Our client testified that Gray actually entered the parking lot to pass her on the right and that the impact occurred in the parking lot.  Gray and LCR-M contended that our client was stopped in the middle of the road without her turn signal on and that the wreck occurred on the road.

Our client went to the ER later the night of the wreck and again the next morning.  She sustained an internal disc disruption at L4-5. She tried physical therapy, but testified it did not provide her any relief from the constant pain. She underwent pain management with injections and then, on 4/16/13, an anterior lumbar fusion and posterolateral lumbar fusion at L3-4 and L4-5  was performed on her.

Our client’s paid medical bills were about $90,000. She also claimed past and future loss of household services, past and future loss of earning capacity, past and future disfigurement, past and future physical impairment, and past and future physical pain and mental anguish.

Our client had been working full time and making $13 an hour. The Social Security Administration declared plaintiff completely disabled as a result of the injuries she sustained in the wreck.

The Defendants contended that the impact was minor and that our client’s back injury could not have been caused by the wreck because the vehicle photos showed little damage to either vehicle.

The Defendants also contended that our client’s lower back problems were related to injuries she sustained in a rollover wreck around 1989. In that wreck, our client sustained compression fractures at L3 and L4, and the Defendants argued that this prior injury necessitated her surgery, not this wreck.

The Defendants further argued that our client’s earnings history was insufficient to support her claim for future lost earning capacity. And, the Defendants disputed our client’s need for any future surgery or other future medical treatment.

Finally, the Defendants note that our client’s workers’ compensation carrier determined that our client’s lower back injury was a preexisting injury related to the 1989 rollover and not related to this wreck.  Despite this contention,  our firm was able to negotiate a $400,000 settlement of this case for our client at mediation as reported by Verdict Search.