News & Events

Yarborough Applegate Secures $13.1 Million for Claflin University Student Involved in Deadly I-77 Wreck

Posted: July 7, 2021

Yarborough Applegate attorneys William Applegate, David Lail, and Reynolds Blankenship recently earned a $13.1 million jury verdict against Archer Western Construction Company on behalf of one of the victims of a tragic wreck on I-77 in Richland County. The suit was brought on by our plaintiff, a Claflin University student and the lone survivor of the wreck. The hard-earned verdict was the culmination of years of work and followed a nearly two-week trial.

In 2016, the group of five students—all attending Claflin University in Orangeburg, South Carolina—were traveling on I-77 southbound when they encountered an area of the interstate that had been recently repaved—but not marked with signs or barriers as a construction zone. Part of a 12-mile, $88 million SCDOT road rehab project, Archer Western had been awarded the work. Sloan Construction was a subcontractor hired to pour and install new layers of asphalt.

For an unknown reason, the students’ car left the highway on the left side and entered a grassy median. The driver regained control of the vehicle, but as he attempted to reenter the paved roadway, his front right tire encountered an approximately 4.5-inch-high shoulder edge drop-off. This steep drop-off caused him to oversteer to the right as he attempted to get the car up and onto the roadway.

While the car reentered the roadway, the oversteer resulted in a complete loss of control over the vehicle. It eventually flipped over, landing upside down in the northbound lanes of the interstate. Four of the five students, including the driver, were killed in the crash. Our plaintiff, a rear passenger in the vehicle, suffered a severe traumatic brain injury and was hospitalized for weeks.

The suit was brought against Archer Western, SCDOT, and Sloan Construction.

“For decades, roadway contractors have understood that a shoulder edge drop-off in excess of 2 inches is a safety hazard. Yet, no attempt was made to remediate the nearly 4.5-inch drop-off.”

Defenses were numerous, and both liability and damages were contested during the trial. But ultimately, our attorneys proved this tragedy could have been avoided had industry-standard safety precautions been taken. Archer Construction was deemed more than 50 percent at fault, in addition to having acted recklessly with conscious disregard for public safety, and thus liable for the entire verdict.

“There is absolutely no excuse for the negligence we saw in this case,” says Applegate, a road defect attorney and founding partner of Yarborough Applegate. “For decades, roadway contractors have understood that a shoulder edge drop-off in excess of 2 inches is a safety hazard to the motoring public. And yet, no attempt was made to remediate the nearly 4.5-inch drop-off—despite multiple options being available—or warn motorists of the potential danger it posed.”

Of the $13.1 million, the jury awarded the plaintiff $203,717 in past medical expenses, $505,673 in future medical expenses, $1,392,169 in loss of earning capacity, $7,000,000 in non-economic damages, and $4,000,000 in punitive damages against Archer Western.

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed while traveling on South Carolina’s roads and you suspect it was due to another’s negligence, Yarborough Applegate can help. Reach out to our team of experienced car accident attorneys to start a conversation about your options.

Disclaimer: Every case is unique, and prior results do not guarantee future outcomes.

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