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Home / Verdicts & Settlements / Condition of tractor-trailer at issue in crash killing mom, unborn child — $1,680,000 settlement

Condition of tractor-trailer at issue in crash killing mom, unborn child — $1,680,000 settlement

Type of action: Truck crash

Injuries alleged: Wrongful death of mother and fetus, injuries to minor children

Court: Fairfax County, Warren County

Name of judge or mediator: Hon. (retired) Johanna Fitzpatrick

Date resolved: 11/07/2020

Special damages: Injuries to the four children totaled less than $100,000

Demand: $2,300,000

Verdict or settlement: Settlement

Amount: $1,680,000

Attorney(s) for plaintiff (and city): Robert J. Stoney and Juli M. Porto, Fairfax

Plaintiff’s experts: Peter Sullivan, Houston, tractor-trailer maintenance; FMSCA Alethea J. Allen, M.D., Salt Lake City, pediatrics; Julia Jacobs, Psy.D., Salt Lake City, psychology

Description of Case: A family was driving to an ice cream parlor outside Front Royal on the evening of Nov. 13, 2017. The father was driving with his pregnant wife next to him. Their four children were in the passenger seats behind them. The father mistakenly thought he had the right of way for a left turn across a divided highway when the through-traffic light turned green. He turned into the path of a specialty tractor-trailer that was driving in the opposite direction. The tractor-trailer was unable to stop and struck the passenger side of the car at highway speeds. The mother and her unborn child were killed.

One primary challenge in the case was establishing partial liability against the trucking company. No ECM data was available from the truck. The car’s ECM indicated that the car had accelerated steadily from a stop for seven-eight seconds before impact, giving the truck driver time to see, appreciate and avoid the collision. Post-crash inspection revealed a compromised ABS system and cracked brake linings on the truck. The trucking company insisted that these conditions were the result of, not a cause of, the collision. Plaintiff believed that skid marks were consistent with defective ABS brakes. The braking system had been repaired prior to counsel’s involvement. The trucking company could not produce a pre-trip inspection form for the day of the crash.

The surviving children were the sole beneficiaries of their mother’s and the fetal wrongful death claims. The family’s move to Salt Lake City and the father’s re-marriage to a woman with seven young children of her own complicated analysis of the harms and losses to the children and required local pediatric and psychological evaluations of each child. The father’s insurer interpleaded his liability policy and the claims against the trucking company were successfully mediated before litigation.