Posted on Jan 15, 2014
In the early morning of November 13, 2009, a tractor-trailer driver missed his turn on Interstate 78 in Lebanon County. The driver, Sukhwinder Singh, pulled over and stopped the truck. According to evidence presented at the trial, he then backed up onto the highway without first checking for approaching traffic or turning on his emergency flashers.
Singh was traveling at a speed of only 17 miles per hour when he was rear-ended by another truck driven by 36-year-old Eric Claxton and carrying a passenger, Eric Burks. Claxton and Burks were both severely burned in the fiery crash. Claxton was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident; Burks succumbed to his injuries after a month of hospitalization.
Kamilah Claxton, the widow of the truck driver killed in this accident, filed a lawsuit against Singh and his employer, California-based PVR Transport, for negligence, vicarious liability, and wrongful death. The lawsuit also requested punitive damages in the case.
The case was assigned to U.S. District Judge William W. Caldwell in the Middle District of Pennsylvania. Scott B. Cooper of Schmidt Kramer represented the plaintiff, Mrs. Claxton. In pretrial documents, Attorney Cooper asserted the following facts about the case:
- Singh was not competent to be assigned his driving duties. He had been granted his commercial driving license about a month before the fatal Pennsylvania truck crash, and that was after repeated test failures. His driving school received a failing grade from the Better Business Bureau.
- Singh’s employer had given him inadequate training. He had not been given any on-the-job instruction about operating his vehicle. He was not familiar with his driving route and was unable to operate some of the truck’s equipment.
- The tractor-trailer was inadequately maintained by driver’s employer. Singh’s vehicle had not undergone the safety inspections required by state and federal law and was known to have defects in its braking system.
In May 2013, Judge Caldwell awarded $2.3 million in damages to the family of the Eric Burks, the passenger killed in the accident.
In November 2013, Judge Caldwell found both defendants liable for the accident and granted the plaintiff’s unopposed motion for summary judgment on all claims involving Mr. Claxton. In mid-January 2014, he awarded damages to Mrs. Claxton and her family for their losses. “Considering the exhibits introduced at trial, and the presentation of plaintiff’s counsel, we conclude that compensatory damages are payable by both defendants,” Judge Caldwell wrote, and he also found the employer liable for punitive damages.
The verdict was set at over $2.1 million for compensatory damages, and a separate award of $100,000 in punitive damages payable by PVR Transport.
Mrs. Claxton joins the thousands of clients who have obtained a satisfactory case outcome thanks to the Harrisburg personal injury team at Schmidt Kramer. If you want the Schmidt Kramer advantage for your traffic accident case, contact us at (717) 888-8888 toll-free at any time.