Our firm recently settled a wrongful death case arising out of a trucking collision which killed Deborah Ann Fields on December 19, 2007. At the time of the accident, Ms. Fields was operating an 18-wheeler truck on Highway 231 North between Grove Road and Oak Grove Road in Troy, Alabama. The collision was caused when a tractor-trailer driven by Dusty Lee Scott Conner and owned by Kathy McKenzie Trucking failed to yield the right of way leaving Mrs. Fields no time to react. Unable to stop or avoid the truck in her lane of travel, Ms. Fields’ vehicle slammed into the back of the tractor trailer operated by Mr. Conner. Ms. Fields was killed when her truck exploded and burst into flames. Mr. Conner could have easily avoided this accident by turning into the unoccupied inside lane, which he admitted was possible, or he could have yielded to traffic as the law requires.
The claims were brought against the Defendants for the negligence of the driver in operating his tractor trailer. The Defendants argued that Ms. Fields was not paying attention and could have avoided the collision. These allegations were rebutted by eye witness testimony that said Ms. Fields had no time to react. We had expert testimony from an industry accident reconstructionist who supported the eye witness testimony.
At the time of the accident, Mr. Conner was pulling a load of pine lumber owned by Peacock Timber Company, Inc. We brought claims also against Peacock Timber Company alleging that Mr. Conner was an agent of that timber company while pulling that company’s logs at the time of the accident.
Ms. Fields was driving a Freightliner tractor trailer at the time of the collision. There will also be product liability claims against Freightliner because of product defects in Ms. Fields’ vehicle that caused it to explode upon impact. The product liability claims allege that the magnetic starter switch was improperly placed in the cab of the vehicle. Our expert testified that the magnetic starter switch, which ignited the fire, should have been placed in a position where it was unlikely to be impacted in a vehicle collision. Freightliner denied the allegations of defect.