• ITVI.USA
    13,795.070
    81.410
    0.6%
  • OTRI.USA
    26.560
    -0.120
    -0.4%
  • OTVI.USA
    13,740.380
    64.000
    0.5%
  • TLT.USA
    2.720
    -0.060
    -2.2%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    2.670
    0.130
    5.1%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    2.930
    0.280
    10.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.320
    -0.020
    -1.5%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    3.040
    0.050
    1.7%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    1.740
    0.050
    3%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    3.210
    0.000
    0%
  • WAIT.USA
    108.000
    5.000
    4.9%
  • ITVI.USA
    13,795.070
    81.410
    0.6%
  • OTRI.USA
    26.560
    -0.120
    -0.4%
  • OTVI.USA
    13,740.380
    64.000
    0.5%
  • TLT.USA
    2.720
    -0.060
    -2.2%
  • TSTOPVRPM.ATLPHL
    2.670
    0.130
    5.1%
  • TSTOPVRPM.CHIATL
    2.930
    0.280
    10.6%
  • TSTOPVRPM.DALLAX
    1.320
    -0.020
    -1.5%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXDAL
    3.040
    0.050
    1.7%
  • TSTOPVRPM.PHLCHI
    1.740
    0.050
    3%
  • TSTOPVRPM.LAXSEA
    3.210
    0.000
    0%
  • WAIT.USA
    108.000
    5.000
    4.9%
Driver issuesNewsTrucking

Jury slaps Texas trucking company with $7.4 million verdict in bridge strike

Ronnie Claxton and his wife, Sandra, were willing to settle for $750,000, but their attorney claims the flatbed carrier and insurance company refused. Later, a jury awarded the couple $7.4 million.

A Texas jury recently awarded nearly $7.4 million to a man who was seriously injured when a truck driver hauling an oversized load veered off route for about 13 miles and struck a bridge, sending metal debris into his vehicle.

On April 5, 2017, Ronnie Claxton, 72, of Del Valle, Texas, was on his way home from work as a dump truck driver when a 1997 Peterbilt truck driven by Dennis Rayner, who was hauling an oversized and overweight load, deviated from his approved route. Rayner then struck a bridge, sending a 25-pound metal turnbuckle, used to secure his load, through Claxton’s windshield.

According to court documents, Rayner drove for Even Better Logistics LLC of Killeen, Texas.

Todd Kelly, attorney for Ronnie Claxton and his wife, Sandra, said the couple was willing to settle for $750,000. He claims that Michelle Cora Croom, owner of Even Better Logistics, and her insurance agency, were unwilling to settle.

“We were willing to settle for about one-tenth of the verdict, but they were unwilling to do so,” Kelly, a partner of the Carlson Law Firm, told FreightWaves. “The maximum amount they were were willing to offer us was around $150,000.”

Even Better Logistics is no longer in operation following the bridge strike on U.S. Highway 83 in Austin, Texas.

“I think the takeaway is the truck driver was not properly trained,” Kelly told FreightWaves. “He could have pulled over, called 9-1-1 and asked for an escort, turned around, but he did none of those things and kept driving until he hit the bridge.”

Kelly claims Even Better Logistics didn’t want to settle because of Claxton’s age.

“Claxton is a 72-year-old man, so he has some degenerative changes, but they were exacerbated to the point he couldn’t work anymore after he was forced to come to an abrupt stop that caused him to bump his head on the windshield,” he said.

Even Better Logistics did not respond to FreightWaves’ request for comment regarding the verdict. The company once had five trucks and three drivers before it shut down, Kelly said.

In court, Kelly said he heard the trucking company may appeal the verdict.

“There is a cap on the exemplary damages in this case, but we believe about $5 million is collectible,” Kelly said. “There was never any safety training conducted by this company, but motorists should expect that professional trucking companies safely train their drivers.”

Read more articles by FreightWaves’ Clarissa Hawes

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Clarissa Hawes, Senior Editor, Investigations and Enterprise

Clarissa has covered all aspects of the trucking industry for 14 years. She is an award-winning journalist known for her investigative and business reporting. Before joining FreightWaves, she wrote for Land Line Magazine and Trucks.com. Clarissa lives in the Kansas City area with her family. If you have a news tip or story idea, send her an email to chawes@freightwaves.com.

26 Comments

  1. Moral of the story ;

    THEY SHOULD HAVE AGREED TO THE SETTLEMENT ! Carrier got hit hard due to negligence and being a stingy scrooge !

    Quote:

    Todd Kelly, attorney for Ronnie Claxton and his wife, Sandra, said the couple was willing to settle for $750,000. He claims that Michelle Cora Croom, owner of Even Better Logistics, and her insurance agency, were unwilling to settle.

    “We were willing to settle for about one-tenth of the verdict, but they were unwilling to do so,” Kelly, a partner of the Carlson Law Firm, told FreightWaves. “The maximum amount they were were willing to offer us was around $150,000.”
    End quote .

    That being said , perhaps the “truck driver” shouldn’t have deviated from his route and or should have at least paid attention to the sign indicating the height of the bridge compared to the height of his load .

    Speaking of which , was there a sign on the bridge/underpass indicating its height ?

    Happened to me once in a rural area , the only route to the destination . As I was approaching an underpass that appeared quite low without a sign indicating the height , I put my four way flashers on , slowed down as I was approaching the underpass and came to a complete stop when the hood of the tractor engine was underneath the underpass . Got out of the truck and checked the height of the underpass versus the truck & trailer . Had approximately a foot of space between the height of the underpass and the trailer . Glanced at the road once again to make sure there wasn’t a bump on the road under the underpass and then proceeded slowly underneath . Glad I called the client to offer them to bring the load earlier than originally planned due to wanting to roll in that rural area during daylight ! They thought it was wise and accepted .

    Once arrived at the client’s destination , I told them about the situation and highly recommended they call the city to put a sign on the underpass to indicate the height .

    My sympathies to the Claxton’s for their unfortunate experience !

    In my humble opinion ……….

  2. Wait. You mean the dump truck driver slammed on the brakes hard and his head bumped windshield? To me that would suggest that the dump truck driver did not have a seatbelt on. That companies attorneys might want to look into that. If that indeed was the case.

    1. I thought the same about the seatbelt perhaps not being used after reading that the “victim” bumped his head in the windshield . However, I haven’t seen the vehicle the victim was driving nor if he extended the seatbelt with a clamp . That being said , sometimes the seatbelt can be extended to provide a little leeway with a clamp to block it in place rather than being strapped in tightly . You know like we tend to do in trucks and other vehicles with a seatbelt clamp/blocker so we don’t feel tied down tightly .

      If this was the case , then while still wearing a seatbelt he could have hit his head in the windshield . No pictures so big question mark .

      Hopefully the forward facing in cab recording camera advocates won’t use this story as an example to push their cameras as a potential witness to provide proof as to what really occurred in the cab the victim was in, LOL ! Was he or not wearing a seatbelt ? Hmmm , a forward facing in cab recording camera could have answered that question . Therefore without proof and to keep those camera pushers at bay , I’ll give the victim the benefit of the doubt and say he was wearing a seatbelt with a clamp/stopper , LOL !

      In my humble opinion …..

    2. Whether Claxton was wearing a seatbelt or not is irrelevant to the careless negligence of the other driver being off route and striking the bridge. The injury was caused by a turnbuckle that came off the other driver’s truck and entered Claxton’s windshield.

      1. This article is not a good one . I found another more detailed one along with a picture of the pick up truck the victim was driving . The article above is missing a lot of details . It suggests that the victim’s “degenerative changes” were exacerbated due to being forced to come to an abrupt stop that caused him to bump his head on the windshield . Thus suggesting that bumping his head in the windshield is what rendered his degenerative changes worse . If he wasn’t wearing a seatbelt , then it’s his negligence that rendered his “degenerative changes” worse . Therefore not wearing a seatbelt is extremely relevant . However , perhaps this article is way off . Journalism these days need to be questioned .

        Quote :

        “Claxton is a 72-year-old man, so he has some degenerative changes, but they were exacerbated to the point he couldn’t work anymore after he was forced to come to an abrupt stop that caused him to bump his head on the windshield,” he said.

        Do you see the insinuation ?

        Below I will copy and paste the “other” article .

        1. They’re doing typical lawyer BS, trying to deflect or mitigate responsibility. Everything happened because their driver was off route and struck the bridge. The incident was caused by the negligence of the driver in deviating from the route on the permit and, by extension, his company.

          If Claxton had, or didn’t have, his seat belt on, it didn’t cause the turnbuckle to come off the other truck or cause that truck to strike the bridge. The truck striking the bridge, on a road it shouldn’t have been on with a permit load, is the entire issue. The flying turnbuckle may also be a matter of unsecured equipment on the truck; more driver negligence.

          1. Yes one cannot deny the trucker who hit the bridge being at fault concerning certain elements .

            What I am debating is based on the article which states :

            Quote:
            “Claxton is a 72-year-old man, so he has some degenerative changes, but they were exacerbated to the point he couldn’t work anymore after he was forced to come to an abrupt stop that caused him to bump his head on the windshield,” he said.”(Kelly, a partner of the Carlson Law Firm)

            That’s what I am debating . His head bumping the windshield due to him coming to an abrupt stop which exacerbated some degenerative changes .

            This is stated by the victim’s lawyer .
            quote:
            “Todd Kelly, attorney for Ronnie Claxton and his wife, Sandra”

            Now , this is my issue with that point . The truck that slammed in the bridge , from my perspective , cannot be held responsible for the victim bumping his head in the windshield due to the victim’s action of stopping abruptly .

            The victim’s lawyer is saying that the victim’s abrupt stop caused the victim to bump his head in the windshield .

            Indeed something caused the victim to enact stopping his vehicle . The way the victim stopped the victim’s own vehicle is what caused the victim to bump his head in the windshield , not the truck in front of him .

            This bumping the head in the windshield is extremely relevant due to the victim’s lawyer stating that the victim bumping his head in the vehicle due to coming to an abrupt stop is what caused the victim’s degenerative changes exacerbated to the point he couldn’t work anymore .

            Now we already know according to the victim’s lawyer that the victim bumped his head in the windshield due to stopping abruptly .

            Was the victim wearing a seatbelt ? Could wearing a seatbelt “securely” have prevented the victim from bumping his head in the windshield even though the vehicle came to an abrupt stop ?

            Had I been the defense I would have drilled on that question . If my client was facing a potential $7.4 Million verdict against him , I would have wanted the same sort of vehicle with a dummy crash tested to know if a well secured seatbelt would have prevented the crash test dummy’s head from hitting the windshield .

            If that crash test came back to prove that a well secured seatbelt prevented the crash test dummy from hitting its head in the windshield , now we have a valid argument in regards to the victim exercising negligence to follow the law that rendered his degenerative changes to exacerbate , not the accused .

            In my humble opinion ………….

          2. Furthermore , I would have also pleaded that each driver is responsible for how they conduct themselves while driving their own vehicle .

            We cannot render one responsible and accuse them of ill conduct while behind the wheel while in control of their vehicle , and simultaneously do the opposite in regards to another . Each person is responsible for their conduct in their vehicle while behind the wheel .

            Putting the seatbelt argument aside for a moment , the head bump in the windshield occurred due to the driver’s reaction . He had time to react because he came to an abrupt stop without hitting the vehicle in front of him . Was the reaction to come to an abrupt stop the best action to take ? Was it caused by a lack of good judgement to stop that abruptly ? Could it have been avoided ? Could another reaction have prevented the head bump in the windshield ?

            If your client is facing a potential nuclear verdict , you better sharpen your argument pencil . LOL !

            In my humble opinion ………

  3. Texas trucking company slammed with $7.4 million verdict
    The truck driver struck an overpass with an oversized load.

    A Texas jury ordered a trucking company to pay millions to a man who was injured during a crash involving an oversized load in 2017.

    On January 23, a Travis County jury awarded Ronnie Claxton nearly $7.4 million for an injury he sustained in a crash involving a driver working for Killeen, Texas-based trucking company Even Better Logistics, according to a news release from Claxton’s legal team.

    According to lawsuit, in April 2017, Even Better Logistics driver Dennis Rayner was hauling an oversized, over-height load on southbound Highway 183 when he struck the Highway 71 bridge.

    Claxton was driving in a pickup directly behind Rayner during the bridge strike.

    Claxton’s legal team said that the “force of the crash caused steel turnbuckles and chains securing the trailer’s load to rip apart at a high rate of speed. A chain and a steel turnbuckle crashed through Claxton’s windshield.”

    The lawsuit contends that Claxton suffered serious injuries during the incident and is now unable to work, dress himself, or drive.
    The suit makes several accusations of negligence against Even Better Logistics, including that Rayner “fail[ed] to operate the vehicle on a TxDOT approved route”, and that “the company had no written safety policies and failed to maintain their vehicles.”

    “Rayner could’ve pulled over, turned around or called for a police escort to get back on route,” Carlson Law Firm attorney Todd Kelly said. “Instead, he continued on an unsafe route where he hit a bridge. Upon impact, a tie-down ratchet, weighing 25lbs, was thrown into the windshield of our client Ronnie Claxton’s truck.”

    “Today, a Travis County Texas jury heard Ronnie and rendered their version of Texas justice: $7,396,314, plus 2.5 years of pre-judgment interest at 5% on economic losses of $1,261,314,” Kelly said

    End quote .

    No bumping head in windshield mentioned in this article . So did he bump his head or not ??? Because in freightwaves article the author states that bumping his head in the windshield made his injuries worse .

    I’ll go by this article instead . That being said , I’m not a medical practitioner , however , upon viewing the victim’s truck , I question the validity of the injuries reported . The major damage to the windshield of the pick up truck the victim was driving is on the passenger side . The victim doesn’t appear in such bad shape in the picture seen in the article titled : Killeen: Local trucking company ordered to pay millions.

    And I quote :

    “Claxton’s attorneys say he sustained “lifelong injuries that have left him unable to return to a normal life.”

    That statement is stated by attorneys , not a medical practitioner . I’m not taking anyone’s side . I’m looking deeper into the situation and it raises questions , many questions .

    Draw your own conclusion .

    In my humble opinion ………….

    1. Furthermore ,

      You people are brave to be O/O’s and or carriers in that country . In Canada you’d get a small fine as the owner . The driver on the other hand is a whole different story .

      Quote :

      A lawyer for Sukhmander Singh of Adesh Deol Trucking pleaded guilty on his client’s behalf in a Calgary court Wednesday to five charges.
      Singh, 37, was fined a total of $5,000. The trucking company is no longer in operation.”

      That was the owner of the trucking company that was involved in a major collision taking 16 lives due to the negligence of the driver he hired , known as the Humboldt Broncos crash ! A puny $5k fine !!! The family of the deceased got diddly squat ! The injured in that collision got diddly squat !

      With those sorts of verdicts in the USA , carriers should really rethink their positions and ways of conducting business in that country . OH BUT THEY DO .

      No wonder they protested AB5 In California . Lease on O/O’s serve as a buffer , a protective carrier blanket . If a lease on “O/O” gets in such an incident , the carrier is scott free . The lease on O/O gets the whip . Nice to be misclassified , LOL !

      In my humble opinion ……..

  4. More of the same. These plaintiff’s attorneys are absolutely destroying the transportation industry and the courts are complicit in allowing them to do so. This settlement is so far out of line with the damages incurred that that it can only be described as theft. Since when has an unfortunate incident, which would appear that the plaintiff contributed to by his actions, been a winning lottery ticket? It doesn’t matter how much experience a driver has and how much you train them, it doesn’t matter how much safety equipment you put on a truck, it doesn’t matter if the driver has been driving within the hours of service for the discoverable 6 months, the plaintiff’s attorney will claim that the driver was inexperienced and company did not properly train them, they cut corners with safety equipment and that the driver was too fatigued to operate a truck. Then they approach a jury with the reptile strategy that makes it look like the only way to save humanity is to “send a message” to the big, bad trucking company. Without meaningful tort reform this will only continue to get worse until the only trucks on the road are from companies large enough to self insure.

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