Fatal Tractor-Trailer Crash Results in $2.25 Million Jury Verdict

Atinderpal “Gavan” Singh, a commercial truck driver, was driving his tractor-trailer eastbound on Interstate 80 in Nebraska when this tragic crash occurred.

Freddie Galloway, a trucker for Ecklund Logistics Inc., was also driving eastbound on the same interstate. He was some distance ahead of the Singh truck. This incident occurred in late summer. A grass fire had started on the highway median, which created a smoke cover that affected visibility on the highway. Local fire and sheriff personnel were on the scene trying to contain the fire and control traffic at the same time.

Galloway heard about the fire on his CB radio while still several miles away and slowed his truck to 5 mph in a 75-mph zone.  He was driving at that speed for 5-10 minutes as he approached the area of the fire.

Singh, 23, came upon Galloway’s truck and was unable to slow down in time. As he steered left to try to avoid crashing into the Singh truck, the front of his cab struck Galloway’s trailer. Singh’s truck exploded on impact; he was ejected from the cab, sustained massive injuries and died at the scene. At the time of his death, Singh was survived by his pregnant wife whose first child was born just one month after Singh’s death.

Singh’s wife, individually, and on behalf of his estate and the couple’s infant son, sued Galloway and Ecklund Logistics claiming that Galloway was negligent in driving too slowly under the circumstances and choosing not to activate his hazard lights, driving while fatigued and distracted and failing to properly control the truck and take a proper lookout.

The Singh family also alleged negligence per se for Galloway’s violation of state law prohibiting slow driving that impedes the flow of traffic.

The Singh family lawsuit included a claim against Ecklund Logistics for negligent hiring. The defendant obtained summary judgment on that claim.

At the jury trial, the Singh family presented evidence that at the time of the crash, Galloway was driving in violation of federal hours-of-service regulations and had falsified his logbook.

The Singh family also claimed that two days before the crash, Galloway filled out his log in a way that showed he was off duty for a 24-hour period. He also completed a log for the same day, however, showing that he spent that day on duty, driving and making stops.

Galloway reportedly admitted in his deposition to being on duty and expressed confusion when confronted with a second logbook page for the same day indicating that he was off duty. With a view on the accurate logbook page, the Singh family lawyers persuasively contended that it showed that Galloway had been driving or on duty more than 78 hours over the maximum allowable time for an 8-day period.

If it couldn’t be worse for Galloway, the attorneys representing the Singhs also offered Galloway’s deposition testimony in which he admitted that he was talking on his cell phone at the time of the crash. He also acknowledged at the deposition that he had slowed to 5 mph leading up to the crash.

The defendants argued that Galloway was using his hazard lights and that it was Singh who chose not to keep a proper lookout and observe the lights and the trailer.

To counter the hazard lights claim, the Singh family attorneys presented videotape from the local sheriff’s office showing Galloway’s truck immediately after the crash. In the video, the truck’s flashing lights are blinking on the left side only.  At trial, the plaintiff’s counsel showed the video to the Nebraska state trooper who had inspected the truck after the collision and determined that the lights were in fact functioning. The trooper testified that the video showed that the truck’s left turn signal was illuminated after the crash but not the hazard lights.

At the conclusion of the trial, it was found that the jury allocated fault at 55% to Galloway and 45% to the plaintiff, Singh. The verdict for $2.25 million was therefore reduced because of the comparative fault of Singh to a total of $1.24 million. According to the report of this case, a defense motion for a new trial is still pending.

The attorneys successfully representing the Singh family were Justin R. Kaufman, Rosalind V. Bienvenu, Stephen J. Kelly and Christopher P. Welsh.

The attorneys for the Singh family presented experts at trial that testified in accident reconstruction, trucking practices and economics.  The defendants presented an expert in accident reconstruction.

Basra v. Ecklund Logistics Inc., No. 8:16-cv-00083 (D. Neb.).

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling truck accident lawsuits, wrongful death cases, car accident cases, rear-end collisions, highway crash cases, SUV rollover accidents and catastrophic injury cases for individuals, families and the loved ones who have been injured, harmed or killed by the negligence of another for more than 40 years, in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including Calumet City, South Holland, Blue Island, Robbins, Oak Forest, Hinsdale, Wheaton, Darien, Western Springs, Chicago (Albany Park, Andersonville, Humboldt Park, Garfield Park, East Garfield Park, DePaul University Area, Rogers Park, South Loop, West Town, Greek Town, Loyola Park, Little Italy, Lithuanian Plaza), Cicero, Deerfield, Des Plaines and Fox River Grove, Ill.

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