Billion Dollar Judgment in personal injury lawsuit Sets a New Upper limit for judgments, but not in Virginia because Punitive Damage Caps give Corporations a pass for even the most egregious conduct

By Jeffrey J. Downey, personal injury attorney, serving Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia

As we enter Labor Day weekend, it is a good idea to keep your eyes on the road and not on your phone if you are driving a tractor trailer.  But that message is not heeded by many.

The recent personal injury verdict in New York may bring you around to the idea why it pays to not read and/or text and drive.  A jury has awarded a one-billion-dollar verdict in a wrongful death case against two trucking companies.

A jury in Jacksonville, Florida awarded Melissa and David Dzion $100 million and awarded another $900 million in punitive damages against one of the trucking companies, AJD Business Services, in the verdict and death of their son Connor.

The 18-year-old teen was traveling south on I-95 when he hit traffic, and as a result of the accident, another driver working for a Canadian company slammed into Connor’s vehicle which killed him.

As the trial went through the courts, records subpoenaed by the personal injury attorney revealed that the driver of an AJD Business Services truck, a company out of Staten Island, New York, admitted to the rescue crew that he was looking at his phone when he crashed and flipped the semi-truck, igniting a fire.

The attorney, said the company did conduct a background check on its driver, who had several prior crashes prior to the one on 2017 Labor Day weekend that took Connor Dzion’s life.

Our firm has written about distracted driving before which you can read about here.

Professional truck drivers who drive while looking at their cell phone could face serious punitive damage claims.  However, Virginia has a longstanding cap on punitive damages that is set at 350,000.

“For companies that generate millions of dollars a year violating safety regulations, the threat of a 350,000 punitive damage award is hardly a deterrent in Virginia, explains Fairfax personal injury attorney Jeffrey J. Downey.”   Having represented both truck drivers and personal injury victims, its well known that some trucking companies do not screen or monitor their employees properly, especially when it comes to driving excessive hours.

According to the National Night Traffic Safety Administration, there are around 660,000 people using their cell phone while operating a vehicle at any moment in the day.  In addition, a recent Virginia Tech study concluded you are 20 times more likely to crash while texting and driving than when you are not using a cell phone.

While commercial vehicles are also subject to fines for unsafe conduct, that fine is currently $2,750.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a vehicle accident due to negligence on the part of another driver, contact the Law Office of Jeff Downey for a free consultation.