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Essex County, NJ

In this action, the plaintiff 22-year-old tractor-trailer driver, who was proceeding on a roadway containing two lanes in each direction, and with the entrance to the Port Newark Containment facility to his right, contended that the defendant tractor-trailer driver negligently made a left turn across four lanes in his path in an attempt to enter the facility, resulting in the plaintiff losing control and jackknifing, sustaining severe crush injuries. The plaintiff also named the facility, contending that its dispatcher, who controlled entrance to the crowded facility, negligently gestured to the defendant driver to make the left turn when it was unsafe to do so, resulting in the plaintiff swerving and jackknifing.

The incident occurred during rainy conditions and the plaintiff was exceeding the speed limit. The plaintiff also named the company that recently serviced the brakes of his tractor-trailer, contending that it did so in a negligent manner, contributing to his losing control. The plaintiff’s father was the owner of the plaintiff’s tractor-trailer and the owner, who leased it to the employer, was also named as a defendant. The plaintiff contended that the neither the latch on the driver’s door nor the a portion of the seatbelt was functioning properly. The plaintiff was ejected from the tractor-trailer as it lost control and a tire came to rest on his leg. The plaintiff ultimately required the amputation of the leg near the hip.

The plaintiff related that as he was traveling in the right lane of the roadway with the entrance to the facility to his right, the defendant tractor trailer driver suddenly made a left turn into his path from the opposite shoulder. The plaintiff maintained that since the facility did not have room to accommodate all the trucks that wished to enter, a uniformed security guard in the employ of the facility staged truckers waiting to enter in a line on the opposite shoulder. The plaintiff maintained that staging trucks at such location was dangerous and violated applicable regulations. The plaintiff also contended that the security guard controlling access to the facility, and who gestured to the defendant trucker to make a left and enter the facility, did not have traffic control training.

The defendant tractor trailer driver testified that the security guard was standing in the middle of the roadway when he gestured to the defendant to turn. The security guard denied that this testimony was accurate. The guard maintained that he was standing on the side of the road and that gesture he gave meant that the terminal could accept the trucks and not that the road was clear. This defendant stressed that the duty to make sure the roadway is clear before turning remained with the truck driver trying to turn.

The evidence reflected that the defendant mechanical shop had serviced the brakes of the plaintiff’s tractor trailer several months earlier. The plaintiff contended that this work was done in a negligent manner and the plaintiff would have pointed to evidence that the investigating police had found that the brakes were not properly adjusted. The plaintiff contended that this factor was a substantial factor in his losing control and jackknifing. The plaintiff further contended that although the harness portion of the seatbelt assembly was functioning properly, the lap belt was not and that because of this factor and the risk of strangulation from using only the harness portion, he chose not to use it. The plaintiff maintained that because of this factor and the malfunctioning nature of the door latch, he fell from the cab as the rig jackknifed.

The defendant owner of the plaintiff’s tractor trailer, his father, denied that the plaintiff had made any complaints about the either the seatbelt or the door latch. This defendant would have argued that the plaintiff’s claims that these parts weren’t functioning properly should be significantly questioned.

The plaintiff had no recollection of the accident. The evidence reflected that as the truck jackknifed, the plaintiff was ejected out of the door and the tire landed on his leg. The initial attempts to free the leg failed, and as the mechanism was being elevated, it fell on the plaintiff’s leg a second time. The plaintiff suffered severe crush fractures and underwent a series of amputations. The proofs reflected that because of complications, including sepsis, he required approximately six surgeries and ultimately, the amputation near the pelvis.

The plaintiff was earning approximately $________ per year. The plaintiff maintained that he will be permanently unable to work and the plaintiff’s economist would have projected $________ to $________ in future lost wages. The plaintiff would have also introduced evidence of a life care plan with a present value $________ in addition to lost wages. The plaintiff married approximately two months before the accident. The couple had a child and the marriage subsequently dissolved.The case settled prior to trial for a total of $________. The percentages contributed by each defendant were not disclosed.

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