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.

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