Jury Awards NH Family $8.5 Million for Wrongful Death Action Against Trucking Company
2011 Trial Report
Wrongful death trial: Tractor trailer runs over and kills New Hampshire cyclist on Maine road
The plaintiffs’ decedent was a 38-year-old man who was killed when he was run over by a tractor-trailer while bicycling on a rural road in Porter, Maine on August 25, 2008. The plaintiffs brought a wrongful death action sounding in negligence against the trucking company.
The bicyclist was traveling east on State Route 25 in Porter, Maine. He was riding his bicycle on the right side of the road. The tractor-trailer was also traveling east on State Route 25 and approached the bicyclist to pass. The speed limit was 50 m.p.h. Both parties were nearing a left turn in the road clearly marked with a sign. Despite the approaching turn and the limited visibility, the tractor-trailer attempted to pass the bicyclist on the curve.
As the tractor-trailer crossed over the centerline into the opposite lane to pass the bicyclist, a pick up truck came around the curve traveling in the opposite direction. In order to avoid a head on collision, the tractor-trailer moved back into the eastbound lane. As it did so, the bicyclist was forced off the pavement, lost control of his bicycle, and fell back into the roadway. He was run over by the rear tires of the tractor-trailer, and died instantly.
The plaintiffs claimed the tractor-trailer driver was negligent in trying to pass on a curve with limited ability to see oncoming traffic. When a vehicle did appear traveling in the opposite direction, as could reasonably have been expected, the tractor-trailer driver had to move back to the right to avoid a head on collision. In doing so, the clearance between the truck and bicycle was narrowed forcing the bicyclist off the pavement into a gravel shoulder.
The defendant contended that he had adequate visibility and this was a safe and reasonable place to pass. The defendant also contended that the cause of the accident was the condition of the pavement in the shoulder which was broken in a small section where the accident occurred. The investigating state police accident reconstructionist wrote in his report, and testified at trial, that the main factor that caused the crash was the missing pavement, and that the tractor-trailer driver acted reasonably. The driver was not cited.
The plaintiffs’ decedent was an avid and experienced bicyclist. He was a college graduate, and owned his own general contracting business. At the time of his death, he was in excellent health. He left a wife and two minor children.
The trial lasted seven days and the jury deliberated for four hours before returning its verdict for the plaintiffs. The award included $3.5 Million for lost wages and earning power, and $5 million for loss of consortium for the surviving spouse and children.
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