Jury Returns over $18 Million Verdict to Alabama Man Injured by Negligent Vehicle Repair
A Mobile County Circuit Court recently awarded $18.79 million to the driver of a tractor-trailer truck which crashed as a result of negligent repairs performed by defendant Empire Truck Sales, LLC. The driver, 31-year-old Colin Lacy of Mobile, AL, was a driver for FFC Environmental, a company that picks up used oil to be delivered to recycling plants. The crash left Mr. Lacy paralyzed.
On the morning of July 14, 2011—the day of the crash–Mr. Lacy picked up his 2004 Freightliner truck from Empire Truck Sales, where he had been instructed by his employer to bring it a week earlier for repairs to the antilock braking system. When Mr. Lacy got in the truck to drive away, he noticed that the antilock braking system dashboard light had come back on. He called Empire, but the repair company told him that the light would go off on its own, and that he shouldn’t worry about it. Later that day, it began to rain, and the truck started to shake. Mr. Lacy attempted to engage his truck’s brakes, but without an ABS system, the brakes locked, causing the truck to careen into the center median and roll. The seatbelt in Mr. Lacy’s truck was also defective, which led to an additional degree of injury greater than he would have otherwise experienced. In addition, it was found that Empire Truck Sales had previously administered ineffective repairs on Mr. Lacy’s truck. During a preventive maintenance inspection a month before the accident, Empire had failed to reattach the lateral control rod and caused a defect in the truck’s brake system.
The accident occurred in Florida while Mr. Lacy was in the midst of making a delivery, so although the two-week trial was held in Alabama due to the citizenship of the plaintiff and Empire Truck Sales, the court applied the laws of the state of Florida. While Empire Truck Sales was determined to be 80% liable for Mr. Lacy’s damages, the truck’s seatbelt buckle manufacturer, Indiana Mills and Manufacturing, Inc., was determined to be 20% responsible for Mr. Lacy’s injuries. Mr. Lacy testified that, when he attempted to buckle his seatbelt, the buckle clicked, but did not latch.
After the accident, Mr. Lacy spent over two months in the hospital. His spine was severed in the crash, and doctors anticipate that he will require the use of a wheelchair for the rest of his life. After the trial concluded, his attorneys pointed out that Mr. Lacy has not yet been able to afford to modify his home to accommodate a wheelchair, noting, “this kid needs the money. He hasn’t taken a shower in his house since 2011.”