Date of Verdict: Jan. 6.
Court and Case No.: U.S. Middle District of Pa. No. 1:11-cv-00714.
Judge: William W. Caldwell.
Type of Action: Wrongful death.
Plaintiffs Counsel: Scott B. Cooper, SchmidtKramer, Harrisburg.
Defense Counsel: None.
Comment: The family of a man who died in a fiery crash on Interstate 78 has been awarded a verdict of $2.2 million in a nonjury proceeding before a federal judge in the Middle District of Pennsylvania.
That verdict includes $100,000 in punitive damages assessed against the owner of the trucking company.
Kamilah Claxton won summary judgment in November after the defendants, Sukhwinder Singh and the trucking company for which he worked, failed to file a brief in opposition to Claxton’s motion, which was made in September. The verdict in Claxton v. Singh was issued after the court held a nonjury assessment of damages earlier this month.
“Mr. Sukhchan Singh, the employer, is liable on the basis of respondeat superior, but was also grossly negligent in failing to maintain his vehicle in compliance with state and federal law, particularly with regard to having required safety inspections and correcting defects in its braking equipment,” said U.S. District Judge William W. Caldwell of the Middle District of Pennsylvania in his opinion accompanying the verdict.
“He was also grossly negligent in entrusting his vehicle to Sukhwinder Singh, an inexperienced truck driver who had failed the written test and driving test multiple times before finally earning his commercial driving license,” Caldwell said.
Just after 3 a.m. on Nov. 13, 2009, the truck that Singh was driving from California to Connecticut entered traffic after having been stopped on the side of the road and collided with a truck driven by Eric Claxton, with Eric Burks as a passenger, according to court documents. Claxton died after the accident and Burks spent a month in the Lehigh Valley Hospital before dying.
Burks’ widow, Leatha Deener-Burks, was awarded a $2.4 million verdict a year ago.
— Saranac Hale Spencer, of the Law Weekly •