A motorist injured when his vehicle was struck by a semi-truck whose driver was distracted by a dropped cellphone was awarded a $500,000 damages verdict in federal court in Evansville last week.
Magistrate Judge Matthew Brookman entered judgment in favor of motorist Michael J. Smith and his wife, Marcia Smith, on July 16. Brookman ruled against defendants Gregory Peterson and Triple B Trucking after a bench trial earlier this month in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Evansville Division.
Peterson was driving a big rig southbound on U.S. 41 in Gibson County on Aug. 13, 2015. As he approached a line of vehicles stopped at a red light, his cellphone fell between the gas and brake pedals, Brookman wrote in his order.
“… Peterson looked down in an attempt to locate his cell phone,” the magistrate judge found, but “did not stop in time to avoid a collision with the line of vehicles yielding to the red light… .” Peterson’s truck hit the rear end of the last vehicle, causing a chain-reaction crash that involved seven other drivers, including Smith.
Brookman, presiding on referral by Judge Richard Young, awarded the Smiths the amount they sought. The order noted the $500,000 judgment included more than $100,000 in medical expenses related to the crash. Smith, who was 55 at the time of the crash, worked at Toyota Motor Manufacturing, but was unable to resume working after the crash. The judgment in his favor also includes compensation for lost wages and future earnings, and for pain and suffering.
The case is Smith et al. v. Tribple B Trucking, LLC et al., 3:16-cv-194.