Fatal Fire Caused by Negligent Truck Maintenance Leads to Jury Verdict of $3.52 Million

Amarjit Khunkhun was a 43-year-old truck driver when he was found burned to death in the cab of his truck owned by his employer, GMG Trucking of Fresno, Calif. Khunkhun was survived by his wife and three children. The state fire investigators found that the fire started inside the cab and concluded that Khunkhun’s use of a portable stove might have caused the fire. No stove or propane tanks were found in the cab during the investigation.

Khunkhun’s family, with the assistance of attorneys Bill Robins, Hector Longoria, Mohinder S. Mann and Gruinder S. Mann, filed a lawsuit against GMG Trucking and its owners. The family’s attorneys also hired a fire cause-and-origin expert. That investigation showed the fire started beneath the truck, not by a stove or propane tanks. A truck mechanic expert determined that transmission fluid had leaked from the truck’s transmission, where it was ignited by the cab’s exhaust system and other hot components. Because of the fire underneath the cab, carbon monoxide vapors leaked into the cab where Khunkhun was left unconscious, and then the truck cab burst into flames resulting in Khunkhun’s death.

The lawsuit brought against GMG Trucks and its owners alleged negligent maintenance and inspection of the trucks. The family alleged that the owners were aware of the transmission leak in the tractor, but chose not to repair it in violation of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.

At the trial, the Khunkhun family offered evidence that the defendants and a Mr. Gill, one of the owners, became aware of the problem of the transmission leak when Mr. Gill drove the truck several days before this incident. It was reported that Mr. Gill heard a ticking noise coming from the transmission. Even still, Khunkhun was allowed to drive the truck without having the transmission leak repaired.

The defendants also argued that Khunkhun had fallen asleep with a camper stove on and that the stove was the cause of the fire. The defendants argued that in the trucking business, drivers are in charge of inspecting their own trucks and if there was a problem with the truck, Khunkhun should have noticed it before beginning his travels.

After the trial, the jury entered a verdict of $3.5 million, apportioning liability at 85% to the defendants and 15% to Khunkhun for his own comparative negligence. After the allocation of the fault percentage, the verdict total was $2,990,000.

Khunkhun v. Gill,et al., No. 12 CECG 00922 AMS (Cal., Fresno Co. Super. Oct. 3, 2014).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling truck accident cases, automobile accident cases, fire lawsuits and wrongful death cases for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 38 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Arlington Heights, LaGrange Park, Glenview, Northfield, Evanston, Cicero, Joliet, Chicago (Wrigleyville, University of Chicago, UIC, South Shore, South Loop, Printer’s Row, Prairie District, Pill Hill, Old Town Triangle, Chinatown, Bucktown, Bronzeville, Buena Park, DePaul University Area, Diversey Harbor, Greek Town, Gold Coast, Garfield Park, Englewood, Irving Park, Hyde Park, Kenwood), Northbrook and Schaumburg, Ill.

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