A long-haul truck driver was awarded $ 9.3 million by a jury in Fresno for serious injuries he sustained when he was run over and knocked over by an 80,000-pound tractor-trailer.
“We are very grateful that we are getting something for our client,” said plaintiff lawyer Lyndsie Russell of Miles, Sears & Eanni in Fresno. “It changed her life completely. And now he can get the care he needs.
The jury returned the verdict Tuesday after a three-week trial that found a West Fresno County landlord and the town of Firebaugh responsible for creating an unsafe condition on public property.
Senior lawyer Richard Watters argued that the owner of the property, Hiller Aircraft Corporation, strategically placed cement barricades on an abandoned road, channeling unknown drivers to a company owned property.
The road was so narrow that lost truckers had no choice but to turn around on Hiller’s lot. The catch was that drivers had to pay the owner $ 50 to turn around.
On July 2, 2018, the plaintiff Daquan Jones, 27, of Philadelphia, became one of those drivers.
Jones and his co-pilot had picked up a load of tomatoes from a packing plant and were on their way back east when they mistakenly headed for M Street in Firebaugh. What Jones didn’t know was that M Street was no longer a city street. It had been ditched about 30 years ago, Russell said.
The road was now an unmarked cul-de-sac that ended at the open gate of the property owned by Hiller Aircraft Corporation, a helicopter maker. Russell said Jones got out of the truck to ask permission to turn around and an employee gave him permission.
But as Jones was about to leave, the workers closed the doors and Jones was accosted by one of the directors of the company who asked him to pay $ 50 to get out.
“Daquan Jones and his co-pilot got out of the vehicle and the locals (the manager) started an altercation because Mr. Jones refused to pay $ 50 to leave the premises since an employee had previously given him permission to do half-time. tower. Mr. Jones was placed in a headlock and ultimately was thrown to the ground. The co-pilot tried to get the truck off the property and ran over Mr. Jones, causing him serious injuries, ”according to the lawsuit.
Russell said the co-pilot did not realize Jones was under the truck.
Jones’ injuries were catastrophic. He spent four months at Community Regional Medical Center and underwent nearly 30 surgeries to repair damage to his body.
Russell said Jones had a fractured neck, torn rotator cuff, extensive left knee damage, internal injuries, a fractured pelvis and traumatic brain injury. Perhaps the most serious injury was to her left buttock which was destroyed and required major reconstruction and skin exams.
“He has to walk with a walker or use a wheelchair, it’s just too painful to try to walk,” said Russell.
Jones returned to Philadelphia and lives with his mother who has taken on the role of janitor. He still needs more surgeries and battles with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, his lawyer said.
Liability of the Town of Firebaugh
As part of the verdict, the jury found the town of Firebaugh 25% responsible for having a dangerous condition.
The jury heard that the town had “real and constructive notice of the presence of the barricades,” which had been placed there by Hiller employees about a year before the incident and had been inspected by a code enforcement officer. about two weeks before the incident, Russell says.
Hiller Aircraft was found to be 70% responsible for Jones’ injuries, both for Hiller’s manager’s altercation with Jones and for Hiller placing the concrete barricades on M Street.
The jury awarded no fault to Jones and 5% to his co-driver, Russell said.
David J. Frankenberger, attorney for Hiller Aircraft, said Wednesday his client may consider appealing.
“Nothing is final at this stage, but we are studying the possibility of an appeal,” he said.
Attorney representing the City of Firebaugh, David M. Overstreet, could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
This story was originally published May 6, 2021 5:00 a.m.