A Santa Fe, New Mexico Jury awarded a record $165 Million verdict on Friday to the family of a woman who was struck by a FedEx big-rig truck. Mariali Venegas, 22, of El Paso, Texas woman was tragically killed on June 22, 2011. Venegas’ 4-year-old daughter also was killed, along with FedEx driver Elizabeth Quintana. The fatal crash happened at 1:30 in the morning on Interstate 10, and Venegas had pulled over on the side of the freeway outside of Las Cruces, with her hazard lights on, when the FedEx truck crashed into her at 65 miles an hour, without braking.
Clearly, by the size of the verdict, the jury wanted to send a strong message to FedEx that driver training needs to be improved. The crash happened during the hours of midnight and 6 a.m., a “danger zone” window of time when fatigue can be a huge problem. Fedex said in a statement, “We extend our heartfelt condolences to those affected by this tragic accident. We respectfully disagree with the jury’s verdict and are exploring our options, including appeal.”
As we have seen over and over, accidents involving tractor-trailers are especially devastating and costly. Because of the sheer size and weight of the vehicles involved, there is always a higher risk of catastrophic injury or death in collisions involving large trucks. The NHTSA reported 3,921 fatalities involving large trucks in 2012, a rise of 4% from the previous year. Ten people were killed April 10, 2014, when a FedEx truck on southbound Interstate 5 crossed the highway and struck a charger bus carrying students to Humboldt State University. The mother one of of the victims of that crash filed a $100 million wrongful death lawsuit.