Litigating Deadly Trailer Wheel Detachment Case

Beasley Allen lawyer, Ben Locklar, in our firm’s Personal Injury and Products Liability Section, is investigating a potential product liability claim for the son of an Alabama woman fatally injured when a wheel detached from a food service trailer struck her vehicle.

This tragic and entirely preventable incident occurred in October 2022 when Margaret Greenwood of Anniston, Alabama, was traveling west on Interstate 20 in her 2019 KIA Optima LX. At the same time, a 2005 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 driven by Hector Vidal Cosme was traveling eastbound on I-20, hauling the food service trailer. When both vehicles were near the I-459 interchange in Jefferson County, the front left tire and rim suddenly separated from the trailer’s wheel hub.

The detached wheel and rim rolled across several lanes of I-20 East, hopped over the concrete barrier, and entered the I-20 West lanes. Some witnesses were able to swerve around the wheel as it bounced into the roadway, but Margaret Greenwood was unable to avoid a collision. The wheel hit the roof of her car, causing it to careen off the interstate and into a metal light pole. Ms. Greenwood suffered several broken bones in the crash and a fatal head injury from the wheel’s impact on her vehicle’s roof.

Ms. Greenwood’s son, Philip Michael Greenwood, hired Ben to investigate the crash that needlessly claimed his mother’s life, including how and why a wheel assembly on a commercial trailer failed and allowed the wheel to detach.

Mr. Cosme’s employer, Eliel Jimenez Aviles, of Aviles Food Service, LLC, owned both the Chevy Silverado and the food service trailer. “Our investigation determined that Mr. Aviles purchased food equipment, such as an oven, tables and other items, and installed those in the trailer,” Ben explained. “The manufacturer designed the trailer to include such equipment, but there is no indication that the trailer manufacturer provided any guidance to a food service provider as to how to load the trailer properly.”

Ben indicated that the lack of instructions regarding the safe loading and installation of equipment in the trailer could support a failure to warn claim if the investigation shows it contributed to the wheel assembly failure.

Ben said it is possible the trailer has serious flaws that contributed to the wheel breaking free from the trailer. That is something he is working with a team of experts to determine.

“The trailer itself was fairly new, and one would not expect a wheel to come off of a fairly new trailer without some indication of a failure of the trailer’s mechanical aspects. Beasley, Allen is continuing to investigate this matter to try and determine why the wheel came off the trailer and claimed the life of Margaret Greenwood.”

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