Jon Kieffer and Brian Madden achieved a record settlement against Penske Truck Leasing Company and other defendants in a lawsuit arising from a fatal accident near Dallas, Texas, that resulted in the deaths of two Texas A&M College Students, Rachel Rollings and Britney Lipsey.
Jon and Brian represented Tom and Colleen Rollings, the parents of Rachel Rollings. In August 2006, Rachel Rollings and Britney Lipsey were killed when a Penske “car carrier” trailer decoupled from the rental truck that was towing it, crossed the median of an interstate highway, and collided head-on with the girls’ Ford Explorer, causing it to roll over several times.
The plaintiffs sued Penske as well as the manufacturer of the trailer, the driver of the Penske rental truck, and a Harley-Davidson dealer who participated with the driver in connecting the trailer to the truck.
Discovery in the case revealed that Penske had removed a decoupling prevention device before the accident and that Penske’s own mechanics had documented that the brakes on the trailer did not work and had removed the trailer from service until repairs could be made. Unfortunately, those repairs were never made. Evidence revealed that Penske sets strict time requirements for safety inspections and maintenance and its mechanics are evaluated in large part based upon whether they stay under those time requirements.
Evidence also revealed that Penske imposes monetary penalties against rental stores when equipment remains on the lot too long without being rented out. The plaintiffs alleged that this and other practices of Penske created a financial incentive to keep unsafe equipment on the road.
After extensive discovery and as the case was near trial, Jon and Brian obtained a court order allowing them real-time access to Penske’s computer system where documents showed that the trailer was placed back into service with non-functioning brakes to fill a reservation.
The case settled shortly thereafter against all of the defendants for a total amount exceeding $3 million, which is believed to be more than three times the highest jury verdict on record in the suburban Dallas county.
At Wagstaff & Cartmell, our personal injury attorneys bring our strategic focus and courtroom experience to achieve the best results possible for our clients.