Attorney cites "clear message to trucking and oil and gas industry"
SANTA FE, N.M., March 26, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — A unanimous jury in the First Judicial District Court of Santa Fe County, New Mexico, returned a record $58.5 million verdict March 20 in favor of the family of Kevin Udy, who was killed in March 2010 as a result of a traffic crash caused by the driver of a semi-trailer truck.
"Today a Santa Fe jury sent a clear message to the trucking industry, and to the oil and gas industry in particular, that those companies who choose not to follow safety rules and who place profits over human life, will be held accountable for the harm that they cause," said Bill Robins, of Heard Robins Cloud & Black LLP, lead trial attorney on the case. "On behalf of the family, our hope is that the jury's message will save lives in New Mexico and elsewhere, so that others will not have to suffer this tremendous loss."
The crash occurred on a highway near Carlsbad, New Mexico, after the truck driver suddenly turned in front of Kevin Udy's vehicle. In addition to the driver, the defendants in the case are: Standard E&S, LLC, the trucking company who employed the driver; Zia Transport Inc., the owner of the semi-trailer truck; and Bergstein Enterprises, Ltd., a management company. The company defendants provide trucking services to oil and gas operators in Southeastern New Mexico and Texas.
The evidence established that the truck driver was not adequately trained and was likely driving while fatigued, and that the company defendants repeatedly violated federal and state regulations applicable to their trucking operations. The jury found that the acts or omissions of the company defendants were malicious, willful, reckless or wanton, and as a result, found the company defendants liable for $11.5 million in actual damages and $47 million in punitive damages.
Upon its verdict, the jury read a statement to the court that stated in part: "Our hope is that our judgment will clearly communicate that we expect a much higher standard of safety and training in the trucking industry."
"It is unusual for a jury to ask the judge for permission to read a prepared statement, given that their verdict already made a very strong statement," said Robins. "We appreciate that they took their role as guardians of the community very seriously."
Robins tried the case with plaintiff attorneys George Waddoups and Brad DeBry of Salt Lake City, Utah.
About Heard Robins Cloud & Black LLP
Heard Robins Cloud & Black LLP is a law firm with offices in Texas, New Mexico and Louisiana, specializing in representing plaintiffs in cases involving catastrophic injury, defective pharmaceuticals and medical devices, and toxic torts. For more information: www.heardrobins.com.