Trucking Companies Agree To Pay $9.5 Million To Settle Wrongful Death Action After Bad Brakes Caused Catastrophic Collision With Stopped Traffic
On July 10, 2014, Daniel McGuire, 25 years old, was driving on Highway 17 near Santa Cruz, CA. He reportedly slowed and/or stopped due to heavy traffic. A tractor trailer truck contracted to Saini Trucking, Inc. was coming down the highway headed in the same direction. It reportedly lost its brakes and, with its 80-thousand pound load, drove into the backed up vehicles. McGuire's car was crushed against a guardrail, and he suffered fatal injuries. The truck driver, Ravinderpal Singh, was reportedly a rookie driver and stated that he had been told by the owner of Saini Trucking, Iqbal Tambar, to bypass California Highway Patrol (CHP) inspection stations. A CHP officer who investigated the scene later testified that six of the ten brakes on the truck and trailer were badly out of adjustment and the truck should have been out of service if even just two were out of adjustment. Tambar reportedly came to the scene of the accident and ordered Singh to sign off on a pre-inspection report in an effort to show that Saini Trucking followed the rules.
On Sept. 9, 2014, Daniel McGuire's parents, Gail-Jean McGuire and Doug McGuire, filed an action in the Santa Clara County Superior Court, CA against Saini Trucking, Saini Brothers Trucking, Ravinderpal Singh, Surinder Banwait, and Parminder Tambar, asserting claims for wrongful death and a survivor's action. Plaintiffs claimed that the brake issue was a longstanding problem, that Saini Trucking failed to conduct California-mandated periodic and daily inspections which would include an inspection of brakes, and that in the course of operating the truck, Tambar falsified inspection documents and had an unqualified mechanic sign off on brake inspections.
Plaintiffs had the additional obstacle of having to prove that Daniel initially survived the impact of the collision in order to claim punitive damages through their survivor's action as permitted by Code of Civil Procedure section 377.34. Plaintiffs’ expert Bennett Omalu, M.D., testified and submitted a report which stated that Daniel lived for three to five minutes after the blunt force trauma injuries. Sadly, plaintiffs had also lost their oldest son and the decedent’s only brother in a 2008 car accident.
On Aug. 16, 2017, the parties announced that defendants had agreed to pay $9,500,000 in settlement. Plaintiffs’ attorney Robert Allard stated in a press release that the settlement was “unprecedented” because it included a court order requiring defendants to follow the law going forward or face hefty fines or jail time. Allard also said that he insisted that the amount of the settlement be made public to serve as a “wake-up call” to other trucking companies that were noncompliant with trucking laws and regulations.
Plaintiffs were represented by Robert Allard, Mark Boskovich, and Timothy McMahon of Corsiglia, McMahon & Allard and Laura Liccardo. Defendants were represented by Craig E. Farmer and Eric Brenneman of Farmer, Smith & Lane LLP and Randolph S. Hicks and Jonathan C. Harriman of Coddington, Hicks & Danforth.
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