“Family Gets $29 million in Truck Death Case”, Birmingham News (8/27/05)
Family Gets $29 million in Truck Death Case
By Chanda Temple
News staff writer
A Shelby County jury has awarded $29 million to the estate of a man killed in a 2002 head-on collision with a dump truck operated by a driver who was under the influence of methamphetamines.
Testimony this week showed that Danny Lee Hendrix was speeding when his dump truck crossed the center line and collided with Timothy Douglas Robbins Sr.’s pickup truck. Blood tests taken after the crash showed that Hendrix had methamphetamines in his system.
Birmingham plaintiff attorney David Marsh argued that speed, the dump truck’s faulty brakes and Hendrix’s inattention to the road and driving under the influence caused the June 14, 2002, wreck on Alabama 70.
Hendrix was driving for Hardway Hauling Inc. of Shelby County. Marsh represented Robbins’ wife and children in their suit against Hendrix and the company.
Marsh said Robbins, 36, and his teen son were in the vehicle when the dump truck crossed the lane and ripped away the driver’s section of Robbins’ vehicle. The son survived.
The trial opened Wednesday and the verdict was reached Thursday after about 90 minutes of deliberations.
Marsh said the company had failed to test Hendrix, 51, for drugs at anytime during his employment and that the company had no records of any maintenance or pre-trip inspections on the dump truck.
Since the judge determined before and during the trial that the company was liable based on evidence presented by the plaintiffs, the only issue left was for the jury to decide how much to award in damages.
Defense attorney Scott Harwell said the owner of Hardway Hauling was sorry the accident happened.
Hendrix was represented by a different attorney but did not attend the trial; he is serving a 20-year prison sentence related to the accident. Court records show Hendrix pleaded guilty to murder last October.
Records show he also pleaded guilty last year to trafficking methamphetamines in connection to a November 2003 arrest.
Marsh said this wrongful death case addressed two of the most compelling and troubling issues in society today – methamphetamine use and a trucking company that failed to enforce critical safety procedures with its equipment and drivers.
“These facts were just so compelling involving drugs and safety in the trucking industry that the jury was quite frankly outraged by it,” Marsh said.
He said the jury was a conservative, business-oriented group that consisted of accountants, small business owners, retirees, a recent college graduate, a missionary, and the spouse of a Baptist preacher.
“I think that’s important because this just was not a runway jury, this was a conservative jury … who came together to send this message loud and clear,” said Marsh.