Carrier Ordered To Pay $33.6M After Trucker Rear-Ends Motorist Who Made “Sudden” Stop
Orangeburg County, South Carolina – An Orangeburg County jury recently returned a verdict ordering Premier Transportation, (JHOC, Inc.), to pay $33.6 million to two motorists who were injured when their vehicle was rear-ended by a big rig in 2015.
According to court documents, the crash occurred along I-26 west in Orangeburg County near Exit 165.
Motorist Willie Glover was traveling with his son, Brandon Glover, and two others, inside a passenger vehicle along the interstate at approximately 60 mph when he stopped suddenly for a disabled vehicle in front of him.
Premier Transportation truck driver David Hill was operating behind Glover and was unable to avoid a collision with Glover’s vehicle.
Investigators determined Hill was traveling at approximately 45 mph when the collision occurred.
According to the Glover’s complaint, both men suffered serious neck, back and shoulder injuries in the crash requiring hospitalization and incurring significant medical expenses.
The two other passengers in the vehicle did not report serious injuries and settled their claims with the Forest Park, Georgia-based carrier out of court.
During the course of the five-day trial in April, evidence was presented by the plaintiffs that alleged Hill acted “recklessly” and was traveling too fast at the time of the crash.
Defense attorneys for Premier argued that a “sudden emergency” occurred at no-fault of Hill’s and the crash was unavoidable due to the vehicle ahead becoming disabled.
Further, the plaintiffs alleged Hill, who had been off of work in the weeks leading up to the crash due to a knee surgery, was taking prescription narcotics for pain during his recovery.
Defense attorney for Premier, Robert Shannon, vehemently denied the allegation telling local news outlet thetandd.com, “Mr. Hill had knee surgery and was out of work to recover for some period. Prior to his return he stated he was on Advil for the pain and to my knowledge it is not a narcotic. A doctor cleared him to return to work.”
Shannon elaborated further, “Three weeks prior to his return to work he was given a pre-employment drug test as required by the FMSCA. He cleared that drug test. There was no evidence he had medical issues or was on narcotics at the time of the incident.”
After deliberating for less than 2 hours, the 12-person jury rendered its verdict awarding the Glovers a total judgement of $35 million.
The jury determined Premier and Hill were 90 percent responsible for causing the accident by displaying “reckless, willful, wanton, … conscious disregard to the rights of … the Glovers.”
Brandon Glover was awarded $4 million in actual damages and $16 million in punitive damages, while Willie Glover was awarded $4 million in actual damages and $10 million in punitive damages.
The jury also apportioned 10 percent of the blame to Willie Glover and ordered him to pay Brandon $400,000 in actual damages and $1 million in punitive damages.
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Following the verdict, Shannon expressed his disappointment and confusion with the jury’s decision.
“Of the $35 million awarded, the jury allocated fault to Mr. Willie Glover and assessed $1 million in punitive damages against him. Therefore, he was assessed $1.4 million in favor of his son,” Shannon said.
He continued, “Still the jury awarded him $14 million in actual and punitive damages where they found by clear and convincing evidence his own actions were willful and wanton in causing the accident.”
Orangeburg County attorney David Williams represented the Glovers in the case and said the verdict was a message to trucking companies.
“The jury spoke loudly, telling trucking companies like Premier Transportation not to break the rules,” Williams said. “This is a classic example of aggressive driving by the driver of an 18-wheeler.”
Shannon indicated that Premier and Hill could ask for a new trial.
Transportation Nation Network will continue to follow the case.