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Jury smacks California trucking company with $70.5 million ‘nuclear verdict’

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A California jury awarded a Bakersfield family involved in an August 2017 crash with a trucking company more than $70.5 million in damages on Dec. 19, 2019.

“Nuclear verdicts” are described as jury awards in which penalties exceed $10 million.

According to court documents, Tomasa Cuevas and her two children, Alex and Maritza, were traveling to shop for school clothes when a tractor-trailer driven by Amarjit Aulakh of RAI Transport of Bakersfield, California, allegedly ran a red light and slammed into the family’s SUV on Aug. 14, 2017.

All three survived the crash, but both Tomasa Cuevas and Alex Cuevas sustained traumatic brain injuries, facial and skull fractures. Maritza Cuevas, who was in the back seat, suffered scratches in the crash.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s website, Ajit Singh Rai, doing business as RAI Transport, which operated one truck, had its authority revoked on Oct. 10, 2018. 

Aulakh, the RAI truck driver, was operating with a suspended commercial driver’s license and had been involved in 14 previous crashes, according to news outlet

The law firm Rodriguez & Associates, which represented the Cuevas family, said the $70.5 million verdict “is the highest personal injury verdict in Kern County history.”


  1. WALT K

    This story covers so many areas of the industry that show the multitude of problems we face on so many levels.
    1) Independent Contractors – While there are many who operate within the boundary of law and regulations, this shows the potential violation or maybe just blatant disregard.
    2) $70M verdict? Really? While I have compassion for the injuries that may be suffered by anyone involved in an accident, not just one involving a commercial vehicle. The amount of this verdict will never be paid, unless the independent contractor or anyone else recently bought a winning “powerball” lottery ticket to fund this.
    3). If the tables were turned and the car ran the intersection causing the accident, Would the jury rule in favor of the commercial driver to the tune of $70M? Not even close, to be honest, the case would never be brought to the courts and honestly probably never filed.
    4). Defending the carrier, article states carrier had been involved in 14 previous crashes. “FMCSA Disclaimer”. Crash involvement does not indicate fault. Enough said?

    I will concur, there are many cases where the other party should be compensated for legitimate injuries sustained in an MVA. The next time a carrier is compensated, not just the driver thru 3rd party suits, will be the article I would really enjoy reading.

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Clarissa Hawes

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 If you have a news tip or story idea, send her an email to [email protected]