A truck driver, who accused his bosses of coercing him to cheat on his logbooks, was awarded $80 million by a Texas jury for injuries sustained in a 2015 crash.
The Hidalgo County, Texas jury on May 7 agreed to fine three companies – JNM Express, Omega Freight Logistics and Anca Transport, owned by Jorge and Silvia Marin – $25 million each. The jury also awarded the truck driver, Lauro Lozano, an additional $5 million in compensation.
The jury found that Lozano’s employers were negligent in the May 6, 2015, crash in which Lozano fell asleep and rear-ended another tractor-trailer on Interstate 59 in rural Alabama. Lozano suffered a crushed pelvis, crushed left foot, broken ribs, and a traumatic mesenteric hematoma.
“We had testimony from four former drivers of that company that they were pushed very hard,” said Ray Thomas, the attorney for Lozano. “They testified that the owner would instruct them to falsify their logs and keep going.
“Their employee handbook stated that if they were late with a delivery, they would be fined. If they refused a dispatch, they were going to be terminated.”
According to court documents, Lozano said that before the crash Jorge Marin instructed him to alter his logbook to make it appear as if he had taken his 34-hour restart so he could run a shipment of produce from San Antonio to Jessup, Md. Lozano said he feared he would lose his job if he didn’t comply.
Lozano said it was not the first time the company had pressured him into altering his logbook to make it appear he was following federally mandated hours-of-service regulations.
“We know from the title that the 2015 Kenworth that my client was driving was purchased on Dec. 15, 2014,” Thomas said. “By the time the accident occurred, the tractor had 90,000 miles on it, and my client was the only driver. Divide that by 20 weeks, and it far exceeds what can be legally driven.”
Thomas said the lawsuit was able to be filed because the companies were not subscribed to the Workers’ Compensation Act.
The next step in the case is for the judge to enter his judgment. After that, Thomas said the companies could appeal or file bankruptcy.
“It’s going to be a mess moving forward, for them and us,” Thomas said.
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