Trucking companies to pay $26 million for fatal road rage cat-and-mouse crash

A group of truckers were racing, brake checking, cutting one another off, refusing to let one another pass, honking their horns, and making "rude and aggressive hand gestures," just before the fatal head on crash, court documents say.

$26 Million

A federal jury in Oregon has ordered two trucking companies to pay out tens of millions of dollars for their role in a road rage crash that cost a motorist her life.

On May 10, a jury that ruled two trucking companies — Utah-based Smoot Brothers and Indiana-based Horizon Transport were to pay out $26.5 million for engaging in a nearly 100 mile road rage incident that led to a fatal crash.

The crash occurred in June 2016 near Burns, Oregon, according to court documents.

The lawsuit argues that four commercial vehicle drivers were involved in a road rage battle on Highway 20 that lasted for approximately 90 miles as the drivers crossed from Idaho into Oregon. The truckers were racing, brake checking, cutting one another off, refusing to let one another pass, honking their horns, and making “rude and aggressive hand gestures,” according to the suit.

According to the complaint, Smoot Brothers drivers James Decou and Peter Barnes were each driving a semi truck on Highway 20 during the incident while driver Jonathan Hogaboom was transporting an RV for Horizon Transport, Inc. A fourth truck driver, Cory Frew, was dropped from the lawsuit after providing an eye-witness account.

Court documents detail the road rage “cat-and-mouse” chase that the truckers engaged in:

At approximately 8:45 p.m., the four commercial drivers travelled westbound on Highway 20 near Burns, Oregon. Barnes was the lead truck. Behind Barnes was the motorhome driven by Hogaboom. The truck driven by Decou was immediately behind Hogaboom, and the truck driven by Frew was in the rear. This stretch of highway has only one lane of travel in each direction, separated by double yellow lines.

Barnes communicated back to Decou and Frew that it was safe to pass Hogaboom, despite the fact that they knew Decou was driving in a “no passing” zone with double yellow lines. Decou crossed the double yellow lines and attempted to pass Hogaboom.

Hogaboom honked his horn at Decou and accelerated and decelerated, thereby preventing Decou’s truck from passing Hogaboom or returning to the safe lane of travel. When Decou slowed down and tried to return to the safe lane of travel, Hogaboom then slowed his RV to again prevent Decou from returning to the safe lane of travel. Hogaboom actively prevented Decou from returning to the westbound lane by accelerating and decelerating to match Decou’s actions.

[30 year old motorist] Sara Allison saw Decou’s truck and the RV speeding directly at them and blocking both lanes of travel. In an effort to avoid the head on crash, Sara Allison veered right to the south shoulder of the highway.

Decou was prevented from returning to his legal lane by Hogaboom. Decou swerved off the highway, veering left to the south side of the highway. Defendant Decou’s truck crashed head on into Plaintiff’s car, killing Sara Allison and seriously injuring Plaintiff Matthew Allison.

Oregon news station KOIN reports that Smoot Enterprises fired three drivers and admitted fault.

Horizon Transport reportedly denied any wrongdoing in the 2016 crash. KOIN says that Hogaboom is currently driving for Swift Transportation.

See the report below for more.

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