A Mobile, Ala., jury returned an $18.79 million verdict in favor of our client, Colin Lacy, in a lawsuit against Empire Truck Sales, LLC of Mobile, Ala., and IMMI of Westfiled, Ind. The verdict included $13.79 million in compensatory damages and an additional $5 million in punitive damages. Our client was paralyzed on July 14, 2011, when the Freightliner truck he was driving went out of control on Interstate 10 near Niceville, Fla. Mr. Lacy was represented by Principal & Lead Products Liability Attorney Greg Allen, along with Kendall Dunson, Mike Andrews, and Stephanie Monplaisir, all from our firm, and co-counsel Charlie Potts of the Mobile firm Briskman & Binion.
The incident involving Mr. Lacy was directly caused by Empire’s grossly negligent maintenance of his Freightliner truck during the months of June and July 2011. Mr. Lacy first took his truck to Empire on June 7, 2011. for a Preventative Maintenance Inspection. During this inspection, Empire found that two seals needed to be replaced and assigned the job to a lower level mechanic who had been written up numerous times for leaving parts off of trucks and not following the Freightliner manual.
While replacing the seals, this mechanic disconnected the lateral control rod, which holds the truck axles together, and did not properly reconnect it. On July 11, Mr. Lacy noticed that his truck was vibrating and making a grinding noise, so he brought his truck back to Empire to check the suspension. Instead of performing a proper suspension inspection, the same lower level mechanic who had disconnected the lateral control rod failed to test drive the vehicle or check the lateral control rod. During this service, Empire also discovered that the ABS was inoperable, but failed to diagnose and correct the problem.
When Mr. Lacy picked his truck up from Empire three days later, Empire did not tell him that his ABS was inoperable. Within nine minutes of leaving Empire, Mr. Lacy noticed that the ABS light was on and called Empire to determine if he should bring the truck back. Empire told him to disregard the light and that it would go off on its own. At 2:30 p.m., Empire’s grossly negligent conduct changed our client’s life forever. While driving down the interstate, the truck began to vibrate. Mr. Lacy applied his brakes to control the vibration, and because the ABS was inoperable, the brakes locked up, causing his truck to leave the road and roll over. Mr. Lacy was ejected during the rollover, resulting in his spine being severed at the T-10 level. Mr. Lacy spent more than two months in the hospital following the accident and will spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair. Greg Allen had this to say about the verdict:
This verdict will help Colin with his future medical care and other expenses. Colin was injured in 2011 and his home has yet to be modified for a wheelchair. He is a fine young man whose life was drastically altered by Empire Truck Sales’ conduct. No one would want to trade places with Colin.
Charlie Potts, the very good lawyer from Mobile who helped try the case, added these comments concerning the verdict:
The jury in this case got it right; they determined that 80 percent of the fault lies with Empire Truck Sales, LLC and 20 percent with IMMI. There has to be a certain level of accountability for companies. Fortunately for Colin he will now be properly taken care of.
The trial lasted one week before Judge Mike Youngpeter in the Mobile County Circuit Court. Greg and the entire trial team did an outstanding job in this case. A high-low agreement was reached while the jury was deliberating and as a result $14 million will be paid to Mr. Lacy within 30 days with no threat of appeal. There will be no post-verdict motions and no appearance. The case is Colin Lacy v. Empire Truck Sales, LLC, 02-CV-2012-902600.