Jury Verdict of $4.5 Million in Tractor-Trailer Crash With Bus

G3 Enterprises, a wine and beverage packaging and transportation company, had a long-term subhauling contract with Sun Valley Express Transport Inc. Sun Valley in turn contracted with Velazquez & Sons Trucking Co. to haul grapes using G3’s trailers. Velazquez & Sons assigned its new driver, Juan Velazquez, to do the job, which was coordinated and dispatched by G3.

As Velazquez was driving a big rig, hauling G3‘s double trailer on the highway, he crashed into a charter bus driven by Jimmy Duncan. The bus then crashed into attenuator barrels before becoming trapped between the big rig and the wall of an overpass. Rescue workers had to use the Jaws of Life to evacuate injured passengers of the bus.

Duncan, 50, was rushed to a hospital’s emergency department suffering from pain, nausea and dizziness. He was diagnosed with chest and abdominal contusions and neck and low back strain. However, the X-rays showed narrowing of Duncan’s spinal canal, which caused compression of the spinal cord and nerve roots at C6-7, narrowing of the space between L2-3 and L3-4 vertebrae, with pockets of air between the disks. The impact of the crash also aggravated Duncan’s pre-existing spinal injuries from which he had undergone two prior surgeries.

Duncan underwent lumbar and cervical fusion surgeries but he continues to suffer pain and has restricted range of motion in his neck and back. He also developed post traumatic headaches and post traumatic stress disorder. His past medical expenses totaled $278,100 and his future medical expenses were estimated to be more than $1.8 million.

Duncan has not been able to return to work and is now permanently disabled. His lost earnings totaled $128,200 and his future lost wages were estimated to be $314,500.

Duncan sued Velazquez alleging that the trucker was negligent in speeding and not staying in his lane when exiting the highway. Duncan also sued Velazquez & Sons and its owner, Jesus Velazquez, alleging that as an employer he was liable for the driver’s negligence. The lawsuit against Sun Valley alleged it was vicariously liable as the entity that had contracted with Velazquez’s employer.

And finally, Duncan sued G3, alleging that as a highway common carrier, it had a nondelegable duty and was liable for its contractors’ negligence under Restatement (Second) of Torts ¶428. Duncan also alleged that G3 was liable for negligible selection or retention of Sun Valley and for negligent entrustment of its trailers to Sun Valley contractors.

Before trial, Duncan made a settlement demand of $1.25 million. The defendants offered a total of $750,000, which was rejected. At the conclusion of the jury trial, the jury entered its verdict of $4.59 million allocating fault at 70% to G3 and 30% fault to the remaining defendants. The court denied defendants’ motions for a new trial and judgment notwithstanding the verdict and they filed a notice of appeal.

Attorneys representing Duncan were Craig M. Peters and S. Anoush Lancaster.

Duncan v. Velazquez, No. FCS 034635 (Cal., Solano Co. Super.)

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling bus accident cases, truck accident cases, highway construction accident cases and auto accident 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 Bolingbrook, Chicago Heights, Calumet City, Westmont, Naperville, North Aurora, Carol Stream, Bartlett, Algonquin, Crystal Lake, Mundelein, Gurnee, Arlington Heights, Norridge, Addison, Hanover Park, Cicero and Blue Island, Ill.

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