Last Friday, a Cobb County jury returned a record-setting verdict in a wrongful death case stemming from a truck collision over four years ago.
After a two-week jury trial and a total of six-and-a-half hours of deliberation, the jury announced that the Landstar Ranger, Inc. was liable for nearly $40.2 million in damages to Theresa Foster, who was injured and whose husband was killed in the collision.
On the evening of February 11, 2007, William Foster’s Ford F-150 was struck by a tractor-trailer on Highway 27 in Early County. Foster, his wife Theresa, and his friend Jerry DeMott, were returning to Blakely following a hunting trip and were towing a Jeep containing their hunting dogs.
For reasons never determined, a tractor-trailer leased to Landstar Ranger, Inc. and driven by Stephen Collins ran a stop sign at the intersection of Highways 27 and 62 in Blakely, slamming into Foster’s truck. Foster died at the scene of the wreck. DeMott died later at a local hospital and Theresa Foster sustained numerous serious injuries, including fractured vertebrae. Collins was charged with misdemeanor counts of vehicular homicide and failure to stop at a stop sign.
The jury’s $40 million verdict included over $11 million for Theresa Foster’s injuries, medical expenses, and pain and suffering. $29 million was the jury’s award for William Foster’s wrongful death and for his mental suffering in the short time before he died. Foster owned Dixie Shooters Supply, a guns and ammunition distributor in Blakely. At trial, Theresa Foster’s attorneys (led by Bill Stone) argued that upcoming business deals would have increased his annual income substantially.
The most extraordinary aspect of this record-setting verdict is that the large award did not include punitive damages intended to punish the defendant. It is usually only through punitive damages that damages awards for wrongful death reach over seven digits.
After the verdict was read, attorneys for Landstar argued that the jury had improperly speculated as to Foster’s future income and that they would appeal.
Given their large size, tractor-trailers pose a special danger to other drivers on the road. In addition to the basic rules that all drivers must follow, special regulations govern the hiring of truck drivers, inspection of their trucks, and the amount of time drivers may work in a single day or week. Failure by a trucking company to follow these regulations may be proof of negligence. When that negligence results in injury or death to others, the owners of the trucks or employers of the drivers must compensate the people they have injured. An experienced attorney can you are fairly compensated if you or your loved ones have been injured through the negligence of tractor-trailer drivers.