Two Dead In Separate Tractor Trailer Accidents

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Two people were killed this morning in separate tractor trailer accidents in Wythe County, VA, which is about an hour north of Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  A portion of I-81 had to be shut down.  In the first incident, a tractor trailer overturned and went into the lane of oncoming traffic.  The tractor trailer driver managed to escape his vehicle unharmed just before a passenger vehicle struck the tractor trailer, killing the driver of the passenger vehicle.

In the other crash, a northbound tractor trailer ran off the left side of the interstate, hit a bridge and crashed onto Route 90 below the highway.  The tractor trailer caught fire and the driver died at the scene.  A passenger was ejected and suffered serious injuries.  The story can be found here:  http://www.wxii12.com/news/2-killed-in-series-of-i81-crashes-in-virginia/25264218.

Kevin J. Williams was instrumental in helping two families obtain an $18 million verdict in a quadruple fatality truck wreck in Wilkes County, North Carolina, in 2011.  At approximately 6 p.m. on October 26, 2007, Thomas Simon, Cheryle Simon, George Wiggins and Mary Elizabeth Wiggins were returning to Fleetwood after a day of Christmas shopping in Winston-Salem.

At the same time, defendant Curtis Mondy was operating his 2004 Freightliner tractor truck and trailer south on U.S. Highway 421.¬† Defendant Mondy was hired and dispatched by Golden Logistic Services, Inc., a motor carrier located in Tampa, Florida, to haul limestone despite Mondy’s extensive criminal record and history of traffic violations.¬† Moreover, Mondy’s motor carrier authority had been revoked by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

The stretch of Highway 421 where the wreck occurred consists of approximately 5 miles of steep 8 percent grade and sharp curves.  At the time that Mondy drove his tractor trailer down the mountain, a trooper with the North Carolina Highway Patrol was on the side of the road after stopping another tractor trailer for speeding.  The trooper observed Mondy and his tractor trailer pass him going approximately 60 mph, which was double the speed limit for tractor trailers.

At the very last curve on this steep hill and less than half a mile past the last runaway ramp, Mondy’s tractor trailer overturned and slid across the median directly in the path of the car occupied by the Simon and Wiggins couples, much like the wreck that occurred this morning in Virginia.¬† Thomas, George and Mary Elizabeth were killed at the scene.¬† Cheryle was taken to Baptist Hospital in Winston-Salem where she fought to survive; however, she ultimately succumbed to her injuries as well.

The case was complicated by the fact that the defendants only had two policies totaling $2 million in liability coverage.  Just before trial, Aequicap agreed to pay its limits of $1 million.  However, it did not do so under the policy.  Rather, payment was made pursuant to the MCS-90 endorsement to the policy.  Aequicap provided the defense.

Transportation Insurors held the general liability policy and denied coverage based on an automobile exclusion contained in the policy.¬† Transportation Insurors provided no defense in the case.¬† Further, Transportation Insurors repeatedly ignored efforts of Plaintiffs’ counsel to notify it of important dates such as mediation and trial.¬† During one conversation with Plaintiffs’ counsel, the adjuster said he had to end the call because a fire alarm had gone off and that he would call back later.¬† He never did.

The cases proceeded to trial where, immediately prior to trial, the defendants stipulated to liability and a bench trial was conducted on compensatory damages only.¬† The judge awarded $4.5 million to the estate of each of the four decedents for a total award of $18 million.¬† Plaintiffs’ counsel subsequently mailed the judgments to Transportation Insurors and informed it of their intent to pursue¬†bad faith action in Florida, where venue was appropriate and bad faith law is favorable for third-party plaintiffs.

Florida counsel was hired by the insurance company to provide a defense and took the position that while the claim had been mishandled, that the automobile exclusion would likely apply if the matter were taken to court.¬† Plaintiffs’ position was that the exclusion did not apply because Mondy was an independent contractor.¬† Florida counsel ultimately agreed to settle the bad faith claim for $3.73 million which represented the $1 million policy limits plus $2.73 million, which was the full amount of the pre- and post-judgment interest on the judgments totaling $18 million.

In addition, Kevin J. Williams and his colleagues managed to recover another $788,500 from UM/UIM policies owned by the decedents for a total recovery of $5,518,500 in a case where it appeared there was a maximum of $2 million in liability coverage.

If you have been involved in a collision with a tractor trailer or other large truck, please contact the Law Office of Kevin J. Williams, PLLC, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina at (336)793-8459 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your options.  You may also e-mail Kevin using the contact form.

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Attorney Kevin J. Williams at his desk in his Greensboro North Carolina office.
Attorney Kevin J. Williams at his desk in his Greensboro North Carolina office.

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