The parents of two children killed in a fatal crash during a snowstorm in March 2018 on Interstate 29 in eastern North Dakota have filed a $10 million lawsuit, alleging negligence against the trucking company and its driver, despite a five-month investigation that cleared the truck driver of any wrongdoing.
Bryan Dean and Trista Curry recently filed their lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Fargo, North Dakota, against Pan-O-Gold Baking Company, headquartered in St. Cloud, Minnesota, and truck driver Michael Soyring.
According to court documents, Curry was driving a 2013 Honda Pilot with her three children on I-29 when icy conditions caused her to “lose control of her vehicle,” which slid into the path of Soyring’s truck. Despite his efforts to avoid the crash, his tractor-trailer still struck Curry’s SUV on the passenger side, the Star Tribune reported.
Killed in the crash were Curry’s 1-year-old and 9-year-old sons. Curry and her 3-year-old daughter both sustained serious injuries, while Soyring wasn’t injured in the crash.
Court documents allege that Pan-O-Gold “knew or should have known of the adverse weather conditions” at the time of the crash and should have directed Soyring “off of the highway and onto a different route or to a place of safety.” The lawsuit also claims that Pan-O-Gold was negligent for failing to equip Soyring’s 2002 Volvo tractor with “standard safety equipment” that may have prevented or aided in the prevention of the severity of the collision.
The lawsuit alleges that Soyring “failed to exercise extreme caution by driving too fast for the weather conditions and not managing a reasonable following distance for traffic ahead of him, which resulted in him crashing his tractor-trailer” into the SUV driven by Curry.
The Grand Forks County States Attorney’s Office declined to file criminal charges against either driver involved in the fatal crash following a five-month investigation that reviewed the motor vehicle crash report, post-crash inspection field notes, as well as other supplemental reports.
The investigation concluded that Soyring was operating his vehicle in a reasonable manner, taking into consideration road and weather conditions, according to a press release issued by Grand Forks County State’s Attorney David T. Jones in August 2018.
There was also no evidence of excess speed or other driving violations, including distracted driving, by Soyring. A post-crash inspection found no equipment issues concerning Soyring’s rig, the report also found.
The investigation also found that Curry had properly restrained her children in her vehicle and there was no evidence of distracted driving. Of some concern was the worn condition of the back tires on Curry’s car, considered “borderline for winter use,” the report found.
“What is clear is that road and weather conditions had deteriorated greatly that morning,” Jones said.
Pan-O-Gold, which has 549 drivers and power units, is known for its Country Hearth and Village Hearth brands in the Upper Midwest.