A Texas jury rendered a $90 million verdict against trucking corporation, Werner Enterprises, for a fatal crash involving a student truck driver. On May 17, 2018, a Houston, Harris County jury awarded Jennifer Blake $89.6 million after a six week long trial against Werner. The crash killed Blake’s seven year old son and left her 12 year old daughter a quadriplegic in need of 24 hour care. Jennifer Blake and another son also suffered brain injuries in the crash.
The crash occurred during icy weather conditions in 2014. The jury found that Werner demonstrated systematic disregard for safety and training policies. The pickup driver lost control and crashed through the median into the oncoming lanes of the interstate, where it was hit by a Werner truck. Plaintiffs stated that Werner’s lack of basic safety systems and its inadequate training processes for student drivers – combined with its business model of assigning student drivers on expedited deliveries – is creating a highly dangerous and unsustainable dynamic on U.S. Highway.
The plaintiffs’ lawyers said, “According to court documents, the collision occurred on I-20 in Texas during freezing rain and black ice conditions. Every state’s Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) manual instructs 18-wheeler drivers to slow to a crawl and get off the road during icy conditions. Shiraz Ali, the Werner student truck driver in this case, did not get off the interstate. Instead, Ali averaged in excess of 60 mph for the 52 miles he was driving in icy conditions prior to the crash, and was traveling over 50 mph seconds prior to the collision. It was undisputed that had Ali complied with the CDL manual the crash would not have occurred….

At 2:50 p.m., one hour and 40 minutes prior to the collision, the National Weather Service issued an updated Winter Storm Warning stating the freezing rain had developed. Yet Werner never communicated this update to its student driver, allowing Ali to average over 60 mph while driving unsupervised through the icy conditions because Ali was on a Just-In-Time (JIT) load, requiring delivery to California by the next day. A JIT delivery is one with an expedited delivery deadline. These are priority deliveries for which Werner expects its drivers to provide 100% on-time delivery.”