Victoria law firm says suit will change trucking industry

Dec. 7, 2011 at 6:07 a.m.
Updated Dec. 8, 2011 at 6:08 a.m.

After losing their father in a 2010 crash involving a tractor-trailer, a New Braunfels family has received a settlement of more than $3 million.

In an industry first, Celadon, a major Canadian trucking firm, said in a recent legal settlement that a driver's sleep apnea most likely led to the death of John Lindsay in an accident that occurred in May 2010.

Wanda Lindsay, John Lindsay's widow, and the couple's three children filed the lawsuit against Celadon Trucking Co. and its driver in July 2010 in Dallas County.

The parties reached a $3.25 million settlement.

"We are relieved to have it over and behind us so we can focus on the work of the foundation," said Wanda Lindsay, who along with her children created the John Lindsay Foundation in May 2011 to educate people about the dangers of sleep apnea in commercial trucking.

"We couldn't just bury John and do nothing," Lindsay said. "It would have been a dishonor."

The Lindsay family was represented by Jim Cole and the Victoria-based Cole, Cole & Easley law firm.

"This is the first case in which a trucking company has acknowledged a death resulting from a driver with sleep apnea," Cole said in a press release. "This will have a national impact on the trucking industry."

Messages left for Celadon seeking a comment were not returned Wednesday evening.

Wanda Lindsay and Jim Cole traveled to Washington D.C. on Wednesday to make their case to a joint committee meeting of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's advisory committee and the Medical Review Board.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss sleep apnea and proposed new rules.

Cole said the committee adopted a recommendation to establish a proposed sleep apnea standard, something that has been recommended since 1988.

"For 30 years, this has been attempted and finally something has happened. We are very pleased," said Cole. "It had a lot to do with Wanda's testimony."

John and Wanda Lindsay were traveling on May 7, 2010, on Interstate 30 near Texarkana shortly after noon when they entered a construction zone where the traffic came to a stop.

The last car in a line of stopped cars approximately three miles long, the Lindsays were rear-ended by a 40-ton tractor-trailer traveling 65 mph in a construction zone with its cruise control on at the time of the crash.

John Lindsay died of massive injuries from in the crash while Wanda Lindsay suffered serious injuries.

After the wreck, it was learned that the truck driver had severe uncontrolled sleep apnea at the time and that he had been fired from his previous job for refusing to have a sleep study performed on him, said the press release.

Also, 30 additional companies refused to hire him before he was hired by Celadon.

Wanda Lindsay said the truck driver responsible for her husband's death was placed on unpaid leave and said in a previous deposition that he fully expected to go back to work at Celadon.

No criminal charges were ever filed against him.

It is generally accepted among industry experts that approximately 30 percent of truck drivers have sleep apnea, the press release said.

As part of the settlement, Celadon agreed to take steps to better protect the traveling public from dangers associated with truck drivers with sleep apnea.

Celadon committed to examine - with the assistance of Dr. Charles Czeisler, a nationally recognized sleep expert at Harvard Medical School - its operations and policies to look for every opportunity to prevent what happened to the Lindsay family from happening to other families.

Additionally, Celadon agreed to educate its drivers about the dangers related to sleep apnea and truck driving.

Celadon agreed that Czeisler may use information he learned through the work he did for Celadon to lobby for changes in regulations and in industry practices to prevent sleep apnea related crashes.

"There's nothing we can do to bring John back, as much as we would like that. But at least his death is not a total loss. Some good has come out of it. This is a way for us to continue to help people and do it in his memory," said Wanda Lindsay. "It's not going to happen overnight, but it's a huge step in the right direction."



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