A Florida jury handed down a massive multi-million dollar verdict following a 2018 crash that left a motorcyclist severely injured.
On Friday, October 2, a jury in Florida’s Second Circuit Court returned a $411,726,608 verdict for Duane Washington, 42, in a case against Top Auto Express Trucking Company.
Washington, a former career Army sergeant, suffered major injuries in a 45 vehicle pileup crash that occurred during stormy weather on westbound I-10 in Tallahassee, Florida, on July 24, 2018.
As heavy rain fell, traffic slowed on the interstate. Local news outlet WCTV reports that “a semi-truck with Top Auto Trucking Company tried to avoid a collision, but instead jackknifed and caused the domino effect of crashes” that ultimately involved 45 vehicles.
Ben Crump, the attorney representing Washington, describes how his client was injured in the crash:
The massive crash was caused by weather conditions coupled with speeding by a Top Auto commercial vehicle driver. Washington attempted to drive his motorcycle onto a median to avoid the pileup and the risk of other vehicles crashing into him – but before he could do so, Washington collided with a stopped truck that had no lights on in the emergency lane. The collision launched Washington into the median and left him with severe, life-threatening injuries.
A total of eight people were taken to the hospital with injuries as a result of the pileup.
Washington reportedly suffered major injuries, including the breaking both sides of his pelvis away from his spine, severe colon and urethra damage, permanent incontinence, and loss of sexual function.
Top Auto Express Trucking Company was a single truck and single driver company based in Pembroke Pines, Florida, that reportedly no longer has authority.
Crump said that Top Auto Express tried to settle for $1 million but that the settlement was rejected due to the fact that Washington’s medical expenses were nearly $750,000.
“This proud veteran sacrificed so much to serve our country, and was a competent, safe driver who never even had a ticket while riding his motorcycle. The consequential negligence displayed by the Top Auto driver wrecked not only vehicles but lives,” Crump said. “This is a significant, historic ruling for justice. COVID demanded an unprecedented Zoom trial, but it didn’t stop the jury from hearing and understanding the evidence and returning a record verdict.”
It isn’t clear how much of the $411 million settlement that Washington can reasonably expect to collect as the single-truck company no longer has operating authority.
A study released in the summer of 2020 found that nuclear verdict cases are up 300%, causing insurance rates to skyrocket, forcing carriers to shut shut their doors.