October 16th, 2019
The last couple years, jurors have not been good to Werner Trucking. Jurors from two different states have slammed Werner with two separate multi-million-dollar verdicts in relation to their safety practices and procedures. For a company that operates its own truck driving school these verdicts do not bode well. These verdicts send a message that ignoring safety rules will not be tolerated.
The Texas Verdict
In May of 2018, a Houston, Texas jury slammed Werner Trucking with a verdict exceeding 90 million dollars in relation to a truck wreck that took the life of an 8-year-old boy and left a 12-year-old girl with permanent traumatic brain injuries. The case centered around driving safety practices that included sending an inexperienced driver on a “just-in-time” delivery during icy weather conditions without allowing him to use a CB nor an ice gauge to monitor the road conditions/weather. The crash took place in Odessa, Texas in 2014. This was the biggest verdict ever against Werner Trucking and one of the largest trucking verdicts in history. Clearly, the jury was outraged and sending a message.
The New Mexico Verdict
In October of 2019, a New Mexico jury returned a verdict against Werner for 40.5 million in relation to a 2017 crash. In that truck accident, a student driver for Werner who had only been driving 8 days crossed several lanes of traffic and a concrete median to hit a Honda Pilot head-on. The crash killed the Honda Pilot’s driver. Evidence suggested the Werner driver was driving unsupervised over 60% of his driving time prior to the crash even though he was not supposed to be driving unsupervised according to Werner policies and procedures. Again, the jury sent a multi-million-dollar message.
He who professes to teach safety must practice it too. Werner has its own student driving program. In the 2018 lawsuit, it was alleged that Werner chose to ignore the rules in the commercial driver’s handbooks and taught their drivers that they were not required to get off the road in icy conditions but that it was merely a suggestion. In the 2019 lawsuit, the Plaintiff alleged that the Werner employees were disregarding their own program requirements that would have prevented the student driver involved from being on the road unsupervised. In both cases, the jury clearly sent a big message to Werner to change their ways. If there are lessons to be learned from these verdicts, it is that juries do not like it when there is a clear set of rules, but they are not followed. And, they really don’t like it when you decide to take over as the instructor and then don’t follow the very safety rules you teach.
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Paul Cannon has practiced personal injury trial law since 1995. He is Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law (2005). He has earned recognition as a Super Lawyer by Thompson Reuters in 2017 & 2018, and as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers Association in 2017. He is a Shareholder, trial lawyer and online marketing manager at Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. His legal writings have been published by the Texas Bar Journal, Business.com, Lawyer.com HG Legal Resources, Lawfirms.com, and others. He has been asked to give education talks and media interviews on dog bite law.