- An appeals court in Texas ruled against Werner Enterprises Thursday in a crash during a winter storm on Dec. 30, 2014 on I-20 that killed a 7-year-old child and left the boy’s 12-year-old sister quadriplegic.
- A jury in 2018 found the carrier and its driver liable for over $100 million in damages. Other family members, including the children’s mother, were also injured in the crash.
- The court in the original trial ultimately leveled a judgment of $92 million against the carrier, an amount mostly being covered by insurance, according to a quarterly filing. Werner’s insurance at the time meant it owes up to $10 million plus interest, the company said.
Trey Salinas was operating the passenger vehicle with the victims’ family, which included Jennifer Blake and her three children. Salinas lost control of the vehicle and crossed a 42-foot-wide grassy median before colliding with the Werner 18-wheeler.
The trial jury found Werner was 70% responsible for the injuries in the crash, Salinas was 16% responsible and Werner’s driver was 14% responsible.
The appeal opinion also noted that the crash happened near Odessa during a National Weather Service Winter Storm Warning on black ice, and Werner’s driver was going approximately 50 mph when Salinas’ vehicle lost control. The appeals court noted testimony suggesting Werner’s driver should have slowed to no faster than 15 mph and exited the highway.
Lawyers for the victims' family also argued Werner's safety systems and policies in place were inadequate.
Carriers have been seeking to address liability in so-called “nuclear verdicts,” referring to legal disputes involving $10 million or more in money owed, and some states have curbed the impact of legal fallout. Earlier this month, Iowa’s governor signed a bill limiting pain, suffering, and other noneconomic damages to $5 million.