On a fall morning in 2019, three teenagers in South Carolina’s Pee Dee region were on their way to school when suddenly a tractor-trailer made a left-hand turn directly in front of their car, causing a horrific collision. The teenagers’ car became lodged under the trailer and after a prolonged extraction period, the driver and backseat passenger were eventually pulled from the wreckage. Both suffered major orthopedic and mild traumatic brain injuries. Tragically, two days later, the front-seat passenger died after being removed from life support.
After three years of hard-fought litigation against the trucking company and its driver, Yarborough Applegate and the Douglas Jennings Law Firm are proud to report a $23 million settlement has been reached on behalf of the deserving victims and their families.
Douglas E. Jennings, partner at Yarborough Applegate, served as lead counsel, along with Perry Buckner and John Dodds. Douglas Jennings, Jr. and Mason King of Douglas Jennings Law Firm in Bennettsville also served as skilled and trusted co-counsel on behalf of the victims.
Discovery, Arguments, and the Importance of Data
The trucking company in this case is a sophisticated, international corporation with over 800 trucks operating nationwide. The truck involved in this accident was embedded with state-of-the-art fleet management software systems that communicate with dispatch in real-time. As a result, this case involved extensive and complex discovery, numerous depositions, and underscored the important role that technology plays in the aftermath of tractor-trailer accidents. Knowing that it’s paramount to swiftly obtain driver data following an accident, our team immediately filed a lawsuit in state court. We then learned that critical record-keeping logs “couldn’t be located” because the trucking company’s software system had automatically deleted them. After several hotly contested motions—and even an attempted appeal by the trucking company—a judge granted Yarborough Applegate access to the trucking company’s sophisticated fleet management software systems, which changed the momentum of the case.
We also dug into the trucking company’s policies and procedures, safety record, and previous safety violations. We found that the truck driver was in violation of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) regulations regarding the amount of hours he’d worked at the time of this collision, and should not have been on the road due to his lengthy violation history.
Even as we uncovered these details, the defense attempted to shift the blame to the teen driver, arguing that he was speeding and caused the crash. Using our own accident reconstruction experts and high-end graphic animations, we were able to clearly show that the sole cause of the collision was the truck driver’s improper left turn.
But it didn’t end there. During the on-scene investigation, the truck driver asserted his 5th Amendment right to remain silent. This circumstance presented a major risk for the trucking company at trial. Also, within minutes of the crash, the trucking company had already dispatched an out-of-state “rapid-response” expert to the scene to begin mounting its defense. At about the same time the trucking company’s engineer arrived on the scene, the helicopter carrying our teenage client on life support had just landed at a nearby hospital.
“We felt that the jury was going to be shocked to learn this,” says Douglas E. Jennings. “The fact that the trucking company had a hired-gun litigation expert at the scene so quickly—and yet they were unable to produce basic documents, claiming they were ‘automatically deleted’ in their system—was something we were looking forward to telling the jury.”
Ready for Trial, No Matter the Case
The Yarborough Applegate and Douglas Jennings Law Firm teams work together, aggressively on all our cases, preparing each one for trial, since that’s the only way to secure top-dollar settlements for our clients. This case was no different. And after years of relentless digging to uncover evidence despite a highly contentious process, our teams and clients were ready for court. Fortunately, the parties were able to reach a settlement on the eve of the discovery deadline.
In total, the global settlement was for $23,050,000.
“These families have suffered tremendously because of this accident. While money can in no way make up for the loss of a child, we are pleased with the result and happy it provides some semblance of closure to them,” says Doug Jennings, our co-counsel from Bennettsville.
Out of respect for the privacy of the victims and their families and pursuant to an agreement, the remainder of the details of this case are confidential.
Disclaimer: Every case is unique, and prior results do not guarantee future outcomes.