Billion-dollar lawyer speaks: Here’s what happened in tragic Florida wreck

His billion-dollar judgment in hand, Curry Pajcic is speaking out about what happened in the series of truck wrecks in 2017 that took the life of Connor Dzion and led to the enormous jury award.

The arguments aren’t new; Pajcic, attorney for the Dzion family in Florida’s Nassau County court, presented them during the five-day trial. But since few people heard those in person, Pajcic appears to be on a quest to get his view of what happened out to a broader audience. He held a press conference after the verdict, and a Pajcic & Pajcic associate reached out to FreightWaves to offer up a longer review of the events of that night.

Pajcic has the advantage of the “other side” being quiet or nonexistent. One of the two trucking companies involved, Canada-based Kahkashan, has proved impossible to contact — for both FreightWaves and other media, based on reports. Kahkashan was represented by the Orlando office of Wilson Elser, a national law firm. But efforts to contact attorneys for the firm have failed.

The second company, Staten Island, New York-based AJD Business Services, is listed by the Department of Transportation as inactive. Its lawyer withdrew from the case in 2019, and it failed to answer any of the court’s actions going back to that year.

Zoom Jury Awards $411 Million Nuclear Verdict to Injured Motorcyclist

Travel on Florida’s Interstate 10 came to a standstill in 2018 after a 45-car pile up.

Severe weather caused visibility issues for motorist and tractor trailer alike. One truck in particular, a semi from Top Auto Trucking Company, tried to avoid an accident, but instead jacknifed across the road and created the pile up.

Described as “total chaos” by local news, the heavy downpour soon gave way to 18 crashes, with eight people injured and in need of hospitalization. A single motorcyclist, Duane Washington, was in critical condition.

Washington was an eight-year Army veteran and father of three. In his attempt to avoid the accident as it occurred, Washington swerved his motorcycle toward the median, but before he could pass, Washington collided with a stopped truck that had no lights on in the emergency lane.

He hit with such force that his body was thrown into the median, leaving him with life-threatening injuries, including breaking both sides of his pelvis away from his spine, severe colon and urethra damage, permanent incontinence and loss of sexual function.

During recovery, Washington found that he was struggling to not only care for himself, but also for his children. He sued the trucking company.

At first, Top Auto Trucking Company tried to settle the case for $1 million, but the court rejected it, according to CDL Life. Washington’s bills, at that point, had already reached $750,000. Top Auto was a single truck and single driver company based in Pembroke Pines, Fla., that reportedly no longer held authority. Because its offer was rejected, and because the trucking coming no longer held authority, Top Auto’s lawyers pulled out from the case, essentially leaving the company to represent itself.

Litigation continued, even through the tumultuous year of 2020, in which many jury verdicts have been doled out virtually.

In Washington’s case, the jury awarded the injured motorcyclist $411 million in damages upon hearing the case from the confines of their virtual space. This is considered one of the largest amounts in damages awarded via a Zoom trial this year in the United States.

How a Texas ‘Fender Bender’ Truck Accident Morphed Into a $32 Million Nuclear Jury Verdict

On a quiet September afternoon in 2013, a minor fender bender between a tractor-trailer and a pickup truck barely disrupted life in the tiny East Texas town of Ore City.

Joshua Patterson was driving his pickup to a church luncheon when the vehicle was sideswiped by an FTS International Services tractor-trailer driven by Bill Acker. Both drivers pulled over and, during a friendly exchange, reported no injuries. Over a handshake, Acker offered an apology and accepted blame for the mishap. After local police visited the scene, the drivers went on their way.

Later that evening, Patterson’s neck felt sore. The next day, his father advised him to visit a doctor. And retain an attorney.

Nearly five years later in a Texas courtroom, that seemingly uneventful drive-away accident resulted in a $101 million jury award against FTS.

The award was reduced to $32 million by the trial judge.

While now in the hands of the Texas 12th District Court of Appeals, this civil action against FTS remains one of dozens of so-called “nuclear” verdicts against motor carriers, defined as awards in excess of $10 million, that in recent years have been on a steep rise.

It’s true that FTS, a Texas oil field service company based in Fort Worth, owned some liability in the case. The company’s driver was shown to be at fault, and trial testimony demonstrated that FTS had knowingly put a risky driver behind the wheel.

Trucking company slammed with historic $412M jury verdict in crash lawsuit

A jury for a state court in Florida has ordered trucking company Top Auto Express to pay a man hundreds of millions of dollars for a nonfatal crash, shattering nuclear verdict records against trucking companies.

On Oct. 2, a jury in Florida’s Second Circuit Court awarded Duane Washington nearly $412 million for damages from a July 2018 crash. Although several defendants were initially named in the lawsuit, Pembroke Pines, Fla.-based Top Auto Express was the only defendant left by the time the jury reached a decision.

According to a news release from Washington’s attorney, Ben Crump, Washington was partially paralyzed in the crash that involved a 45-vehicle pileup on Interstate 10. The crash was the result of wet road conditions and a Top Auto Express truck speeding.

At the time of the crash, Washington, a former career Army sergeant, was riding his motorcycle on the interstate near Tallahassee. In an attempt to avoid the scene, Washington tried to steer his motorcycle onto the median. However, he ended up crashing into a stopped truck. That truck did not have lights on while in the emergency lane.

Washington sustained life-altering trauma, including breaking both sides of his pelvis away from his spine, severe colon and urethra damage, permanent incontinence, and loss of sexual function, according to Crump. As a result of his injuries, Washington had a colostomy bag installed during his six-month hospital stay. Currently, Washington can walk only with a specialized arm crutch.

Accident victim’s family wins $42M from trucking company

A landmark court case could change the way the trucking industry protects your family on the road.

WUSA9’s series of reports on deadly crashes known as “underride accidents” began in 2017. Now, the largest ever verdict against a trucking company for one of those underride accidents is exposing how the industry secretly fought new safety features for more than a decade — despite knowing the risks.

A side underride accident killed 16-year-old Riley Hein on a New Mexico interstate in 2015. Riley’s car careened off an embankment and ended up lodged underneath the side of a trailer manufactured by Utility Manufacturing Company.

“The truck driver drug his car for a half a mile until it caught on fire and Riley burned to death,” Riley’s father, Eric, said.

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