Appeals Court: Runaway Dump Truck $10.1 Million Verdict Stands

A massive multimillion dollar verdict was upheld by a Pennsylvania appeals court in the case of a dump truck losing control, causing a multivehicle accident resulting in serious injuries. The original case revolved around a dump truck which lost control and barreled down a hill at 45 miles per hour, slamming into one car and causing it to rear-end another. Court documents allege the truck did not have adequate working breaks and was not properly inspected before the construction vehicle left the garage, ultimately resulting in serious, life-altering injuries to the victims.

According to the National Trial Lawyers, Theodus Williams was operating the vehicle owned by Valvano Construction, Inc. when he “became lost, the brakes failed, and the truck barreled down a hill in excess of 45 miles per hour, striking [Doreen and Steven] Mazur, who rear-ended [Holly Ann] Kuchwara.” Holly Ann Kuchwara filed suit against the truck driver and the construction company, citing numerous injuries including, “lacerations to her face and fractures to her leg, ankle, and back.” The injuries were severe enough to be considered life altering according to court documents. She has since undergone several procedures and suffers from chronic pain, embarrassing facial scars, and a noticeable limp.

During the original jury trial in 2012, evidence was presented that successfully proved both Theodus Williams and Valvano Construction, Inc. were negligent in ensuring their vehicle was safe to drive on the open road. It was discovered that Valvano Construction had been knowingly operating their vehicles without the proper certifications required by both the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations. The driver neglected to perform the required safety inspection before his trip the morning of the accident. If the truck had been properly inspected, a long list of serious and dangerous issues would have been discovered that could have prevented the accident.

Safety issues found on the truck included:
• Only three functioning brakes out of eight on the vehicle • The truck was not operating with the required tag axel • As much as seven-and-a-half inches of give in the steering wheel • Disabled safety alarms • Inoperable speedometer (Source: National Trial Lawyers)

Each of these issues individually has the potential to create a dangerous situation for the vehicle operator and other drivers on the road, but the brake failure is especially critical. A smaller dump truck can weight upwards of 13 tons, or 26,000 pounds when completely empty. That’s 26,000 pounds barreling unbridled down a hill, headed straight for Ms. Kuchwara and the Mazurs. Ultimately their argument was successful and the jury ruled in the injured drivers’ favor, awarding them $9.1 million in compensatory damages and $1.025 million in punitive damages. The court later denied an appeal by the driver and awarded the drivers another $386,717.98 in delay damages. Valvano Construction has filed a separate appeal.

Despite monumental improvements in vehicle safety, the United States Department of Transportation’s National Highway traffic Safety Administration reports that traffic fatalities increased in 2012 for the first time since 2005, and many of these accidents are preventable. If proper safety protocols had been followed by both the driver and Valvano Construction Inc, the serious injuries sustained by the victims would have been easily prevented.

Drivers and the companies that operate commercial vehicles are responsible for the safety and reliability of their vehicles, and must be held accountable for failing to comply. Injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident can be extremely painful and life-altering, as evidenced by Ms. Kuchwara’s painful ailments. In some cases, victims may not be able to return to work, straining an already-tight income. Often victims and their families are left to deal with the physical, emotional, and financial aftermath without any assistance. If you or a loved one has been injured in a motor vehicle accident, Altman & Altman would like to help. Our dedicated attorneys have decades of experience successful handling car accident cases and are available to help around the clock. You should contact a Boston Injury Lawyer right away to find out whether to proceed with this route.

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