Houston Trial Lawyers Win $1.4 Million for Family of 18-Wheeler Victim

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A jury has ordered trucking giant JBS Carriers to pay $1.4 million in damages to the family of a San Antonio woman after the driver of an 18-wheeler struck and killed her while crossing the street in San Antonio, Texas. During a tough trial that lasted for more than a week, attorneys of Simon • O'Rourke Law Firm, P.C. pitted the 18-wheeler driver’s negligence against Ms. Turner’s decision of where she chose to cross the street.

This case should impress upon us all how important it is to conduct a thorough investigation after any loss of human life

A jury has ordered trucking giant JBS Carriers to pay $1.4 million in damages to the family of a San Antonio woman after the driver of an 18-wheeler struck and killed her while crossing the street near the intersection of Rittiman Road and Goldfield in San Antonio, Texas.

During a tough trial that lasted for more than a week, attorneys of Simon - O'Rourke Law Firm, P.C. pitted the 18-wheeler driver’s negligence against Ms. Turner’s decision of where she chose to cross the street.

In the end, the 12-person jury took four and a half hours to decide that, while Ms. Turner held some fault for her choice to not cross the street at the corner of the intersection, JBS and its 18-wheeler driver were negligent and primarily liable for the accident.

Investigation

According to court documents, immediately following the incident, the San Antonio police department responded to the scene. The investigator quickly determined that Ms. Turner simply failed to yield the right of way. The investigating detective also determined that the driver was unable to see Ms. Turner because she was in his blind spot. The case was closed within days, and by all appearances, the event was nothing more than a case of Mary Turner’s disregard for rules and her own personal safety.

Unsatisfied by the results of the police investigation, Mary Turner’s children, Trinette Washington, Sophia Lenzy, and Thomas Lenzy, decided to look for outside help. They soon realized, however, that the conclusion that their mother was totally at fault, made it especially difficult to find a trial lawyer that was willing to take a good, hard look at the case.

Finally, after nearly 18 months of trying without success to get a lawyer on their side, the case landed on the desk of two trial lawyers at Simon - O’Rourke, a personal injury law firm based in Houston, Texas. The partners of the firm, having come from previous firms with years of actual trial experience, were known for their tenacity and aggressive approach to serious injury and wrongful death cases.

Law Firm Investigation

Recognizing the case’s potential, Sean O’Rourke and Nicholas Simon traveled to San Antonio to inspect the intersection where Mary Turner lost her life. Upon arrival, the attorneys found that this was not a typical intersection with a typical crosswalk. In fact, as was later shown in trial, the intersection did not feature a pedestrian crosswalk marked for pedestrian crossing, and according to the layout of the intersection, Mary Turner had actually crossed in the area of the pedestrian control signal.

During the trial, it was revealed that important facts were overlooked. For example, the pedestrian control signal was actually set over 30 feet away from the intersection itself, and the corner of the intersection, where people would normally stand and cross, had numerous tire marks from 18-wheelers running up onto the sidewalk. Simon - O'Rourke took photographs of the intersection and the uniquely placed pedestrian control signal, hired an expert to examine the intersection and take measurements to preserve what they found, and presented these findings in court. During the trial, it was concluded that other elements of the attorney investigation proved also true.

A particular point of interest regarding the investigation showed that at the time of the lawyers' investigation, the intersection was nearing the completion of being redesigned, and Simon - O'Rourke were very fortunate to have arrived immediately before the removal of the original pedestrian control signal – which Mary Turner relied on at her moment of death.

In short, considering everything they had seen and the information they were able to gather, the attorneys decided that Ms. Turner had indeed crossed the street in an area where any reasonable person would have crossed, and that no prudent person would have ever crossed the street at the corner of the intersection itself.

No Settlement

After presenting all of the information gleaned from the investigative efforts of the plaintiffs’ lawyers, JBS’ lawyers offered the family little to settle the case. Clinging to the stinging conclusions of the police report, the defense felt confident that the jury would place all the blame on Mary Turner.

During the trial, the defense argued that Ms. Turner was negligent, and that she should have crossed at the corner of the intersection, and that she simply was not looking where she was going. The defense lawyer also argued that Ms. Turner was not “struck” by the truck, but rather “walked into” the moving 18-wheeler as it traveled down Goldfield Street – further proof of her inattention and negligence.

There was one additional, interesting point in the defense’s case which rested on the argument that the driver was unable to see Mary Turner because she was in his “blind spot”. The defense team stated that the blind spot was extended further than normal because the driver, Mr. James Lundry, was a short person, and in order to reach the accelerator and brake pedals of his 18-wheeler, Mr. Lundry had to lower his seat to the lowest setting possible and then raised two inches. JBS’ attorneys said that lowering the seat resulted in stretching the blind spot to an 18-foot area of invisibility to the front right of the huge vehicle.

Making Their Case

The plaintiff’s case, argued by Sean O’Rourke, showed that the pedestrian control signal was in the area where Ms. Turner crossed, and that she acted as any reasonably prudent person would in crossing where she did.

The plaintiffs’ lawyers were able to prove several things. Namely, that Ms. Turner reasonably believed the white hand signal was a signal for her to cross safely, that Ms. Turner had the right-of-way because the crosswalk signal was white, and that Mr. Lundry should not have started his turn because the turn was not clear. O’Rourke further argued that no reasonable person would have crossed the street at the corner of the intersection because it was just too dangerous.

Evidence was presented that Mr. Lundry had debris in his windshield which obstructing his view, and that Ms. Turner was actually hit by the front of the truck, making the defense’s argument that she “walked into the truck” inaccurate.

In a powerful move to illustrate the danger and enormity of the 18-foot blind spot, lawyers for the plaintiff used a tape measure in court, to show that the entire jury could actually fit inside the blind spot that the defense argued existed

After The Trial

“This case should impress upon us all how important it is to conduct a thorough investigation after any loss of human life”, O’Rourke stated, adding, “It is fortunate that we visited the accident scene just before the pedestrian control signal was removed. It may have taken two and a half years, but with the evidence that we were able to find, Ms. Turner’s side of the story was finally able to be told.”

Turner vs JBS Carriers is a matter of public record and events of the case can be reviewed under Cause No. 2013-CI-13011, in the 37th Judicial District Court of Bexar County, Texas.

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Nicholas Simon
Simon - O'Rourke, PC
since: 12/2013
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