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Motorcyclist killed in crash with allegedly fatigued trucker

Amount:

$4,550,000

Type:

Verdict-Plaintiff

State:

Texas

Venue:

Dallas County

Court:

Dallas County Court at Law No. 1

Injury Type(s):

head-blunt force trauma to the head; other-death; other-multiple trauma

Case Type:

Motor Vehicle - Truck; Transportation - Trucking; Motor Vehicle - Motorcycle, Right Turn, Tractor-Trailer; Wrongful Death - Survival Damages; Worker/Workplace Negligence - Negligent Hiring, Negligent Training, Negligent Retention, Negligent Supervision

Case Name:

Betty J. Sires, Individually and as Representative of the Estate of James Sires, Deceased, and Jessica Ball, Jodi Huizar, and Alton Sires, All Individually and as Wrongful Death Beneficiaries of James Sires, Deceased v. Eric Nilsson, Nilco Enterprises Inc., Jose Thomas Quinones, and Dial Lubricants Inc., No. CC-15-04241-A

Date:

August 9, 2017

Parties

Plaintiff(s):

Alton Sires (Male, 24 Years), 

Jodi Huizar (Female, 26 Years), 

Jessica Ball (Female, 27 Years), 

Betty J. Sires (Female, 58 Years), 

Estate of James Sires (Male, 63 Years)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Randall G. Walters; Walters, Balido & Crain; Dallas, TX, for Alton Sires, Jodi Huizar, Jessica Ball, Betty J. Sires, Estate of James Sires

Plaintiff Expert(s):

Will Miller; Accident Reconstruction; Fort Worth, TX called by: Randall G. Walters ■ David Mohon; Trucking Industry; Fort Worth, TX called by: Randall G. Walters ■ Richard Fries; D.O.; Forensic Pathology; Fort Worth, TX called by: Randall G. Walters

Defendant(s):

Eric Nilsson, 

Dial Lubricants Inc., 

Jose Thomas Quinones, 

Nilco Enterprises Inc.

Defense Attorney(s):

Victor D. Vital; Barnes & Thornburg LLP; Dallas, TX, for Eric Nilsson, Dial Lubricants Inc., Jose Thomas Quinones, Nilco Enterprises Inc. ■ Charles B. Mitchell Jr.; Naman Howell Smith & Lee; Fort Worth, TX, for Eric Nilsson, Dial Lubricants Inc., Jose Thomas Quinones, Nilco Enterprises Inc. ■ Lindsay P. Daniel; Naman Howell Smith & Lee; Fort Worth, TX, for Eric Nilsson, Dial Lubricants Inc., Jose Thomas Quinones, Nilco Enterprises Inc.

Defendant Expert(s):

John Cunag; Accident Reconstruction; Houston, TX called by: Victor D. Vital, Charles B. Mitchell Jr., Lindsay P. Daniel ■ Kevin Riley; Accident Reconstruction; Bullard, TX called by: Victor D. Vital, Charles B. Mitchell Jr., Lindsay P. Daniel ■ Steve Guderian; Motorcycles; Moreno Valley, CA called by: Victor D. Vital, Charles B. Mitchell Jr., Lindsay P. Daniel

Insurer(s):

HDI-Gerling for all defendants

Facts:

On July 11, 2015, plaintiffs' decedent James Sires, 63, a self-employed painter, was one of three motorcyclists riding together on Highway 6, a two-way road in Bosque County. It was daylight. Sires was the lead rider, and he was on a touring motorcycle. Jose Thomas Quinones was in the same lane, ahead of the motorcycles in an 18-wheeler. Quinones attempted a wide right turn into a private drive. He went left, crossing completely into the oncoming lanes before turning right, across Sires' lane. Sires was unable to stop in time. He laid down his motorcycle and slid into the right side of the cab, toward the rear. He was killed upon hitting the truck. Quinones was arrested for negligent homicide. Sires was survived by his wife, plaintiff Betty J. Sires, 58, a homemaker; his son, plaintiff Alton Sires, 24; his daughter plaintiff Jodi Huizar, 26; and his daughter plaintiff Jessica Ball, 27. Quinones was in the course and scope of his employment with Dial Lubricants Inc., and the owner of the tractor-trailer was Nilco Enterprises Inc. Both companies were owned by Eric Nilsson. Quinones was turning into the driveway for Nilsson's parents' ranch. The plaintiffs sued Quinones, Nilsson, Nilco and Dial for negligence and gross negligence. He alleged that Quinones was negligent for making such a wide turn and unexpectedly turning right from the left side of the road, and in failing to use his turn signal. When Sires first saw the truck, it was completely in the oncoming lane and probably appeared to be an oncoming vehicle, plaintiffs' counsel said. Quinones also falsified his hours-of-service logs and was driving while impaired from fatigue, the plaintiffs alleged. The claims against the companies included negligent hiring, training, supervision and retention. The plaintiffs' trucking expert said Dial had a significant history of hours-of-service violations. The plaintiffs also alleged that Nilco and Dial were engaged in a joint enterprise. The plaintiffs noted that Nilsson owned both companies; that Dial drivers drove only Nilco trucks; and that Dial drivers were the only drivers of Nilco trucks. The court instructed the jury to find Quinones negligent. All the defendants were listed in the negligence question, but only Quinones and Nilsson were listed in the comparative-responsibility question. Plaintiffs' counsel asked the jury to find 65 percent responsibility on Nilsson and 35 percent on Quinones. The defense denied that Quinones or other Dial drivers intentionally falsified their logs. The defense trucking expert noted that Dial had policies and procedures in place to prevent drivers from logging excessive hours. The defense argued that Quinones was not fatigued at the time of the accident and that he did signal his turn. Quinones pleaded the Fifth Amendment. The defense accident reconstruction and motorcycle experts opined that Sires should have been able to stop without a collision, as the other two riders behind him did. The defense argued that Sires was not keeping a proper lookout and that he took faulty evasive action.

Injury:

Sires, who was wearing a helmet, laid down his motorcycle and slid into the truck cab. He sustained massive trauma, including head trauma, and was pronounced dead at the scene. He and his wife had been married for more than 30 years. The two daughters were married, and one of them, Ball, lived in Memphis, Tenn. The other daughter and the son lived in the Dallas area, as did Sires and his wife. The estate sought $250,000 for Sires' pain and mental anguish starting from the time he saw he was going to hit the truck. His widow sought $300,000 for past loss of companionship and society; $200,000 for future loss of companionship and society; $300,000 for past mental anguish; $700,000 for future mental anguish; $300,000 for past loss of consortium; and $700,000 for future loss of consortium. Each of the children sought $100,000 for past loss of companionship and society; $200,000 for future loss of companionship and society; $100,000 for past mental anguish; $200,000 for future mental anguish; $100,000 for past loss of parental consortium; and $200,000 for future loss of parental consortium.

Result:

The jury rendered a plaintiffs' verdict, finding negligence by all the defendants. It apportioned comparative responsibility of 65 percent on Nillson and 35 percent on Quinones and awarded the plaintiffs $4.55 million. Based on the verdict, Quinones, Nilco and Dial are liable for 35 percent of the award. Nilsson, because he was found more than 50 percent responsible, is liable for the entire award. The jury also found that Nilco and Dial were engaged in a joint enterprise. The jury also found Quinones, Nilco and Dial grossly negligent, but the parties reached a confidential agreement that rendered a trial on punitive damages moot.

Jessica Ball: $200,000 Wrongful Death: Past Loss Of Society Companionship; $100,000 Wrongful Death: Future Loss Of Society Companionship; $200,000 Wrongful Death: Past Mental Anguish; $100,000 Wrongful Death: Future Mental Anguish; Jodi Huizar: $200,000 Wrongful Death: Past Loss Of Society Companionship; $100,000 Wrongful Death: Future Loss Of Society Companionship; $200,000 Wrongful Death: Past Mental Anguish; $100,000 Wrongful Death: Future Mental Anguish; Alton Sires: $200,000 Wrongful Death: Past Loss Of Society Companionship; $100,000 Wrongful Death: Future Loss Of Society Companionship; $200,000 Wrongful Death: Past Mental Anguish; $100,000 Wrongful Death: Future Mental Anguish; Betty J. Sires: $300,000 Wrongful Death: Past Loss Of Society Companionship; $300,000 Wrongful Death: Future Loss Of Society Companionship; $200,000 Wrongful Death: Past Lost Of Consortium; $200,000 Wrongful Death: Future Lost Of Consortium; $1,000,000 Wrongful Death: Past Mental Anguish; $500,000 Wrongful Death: Future Mental Anguish; Estate of James Sires: $250,000 Personal Injury: pain and mental anguish

Trial Information:

Judge:

D'Metria Benson

Trial Length:

6  days

Trial Deliberations:

6  hours

Jury Vote:

6-0

Jury Composition:

2 male/ 4 female

Editor's Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiffs' counsel. Defense counsel declined to contribute.