Victoria trucking companies settle case for $9.5 million
Oct. 15, 2013 at 5:15 a.m.
Updated Oct. 16, 2013 at 5:16 a.m.
A Victoria attorney hopes a recent judgment on a motor vehicle case sends the Department of Public Safety a message - monitor the qualifications of truck drivers more carefully.
AW Trucking and Jet Maintenance agreed Friday to a $9.5 million settlement in Victoria district court.
Calvin Stovall, 44, of Victoria, sued the companies and one of its truck drivers, Johnny Raymond Rodriguez, after Rodriguez rear ended him March 24, 2012, at the U.S. 59 and Upper Mission Valley Road intersection.
Doctors at Twin Fountains Medical Center measured Rodriguez's blood alcohol content three hours after the crash and found it to be .071 percent and .065 percent, according to a trooper's report.
The law says drivers of passenger or commercial vehicles may be arrested for driving while intoxicated when they are found to have a blood-alcohol content of .08 percent or "do not have normal use of their mental or physical faculties because of the introduction of alcohol."
A driver operating a commercial vehicle who is found to have blood-alcohol content of .04 percent could also be given a citation or have their license temporarily suspended, DPS Trooper Gerald Bryant said.
Rodriguez also worked 97.5 hours in eight days leading up to the crash, Stovall's attorney, Jim Cole, said.
That is more than the 70-hour requirement for eight days set by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
"Normally, the way it is enforced is that the company keeps log books," Cole said, "but there is an exception to the rule that says if they operate within 100 miles, they are not required to keep a log book."
Even if they are not required to keep a log, the Department of Transportation can still audit and fine the company for wrongdoing, he said.
Cole wrote the organization to ask why that was not done in this case. He also wants to know why Rodriguez still has a commercial driver's license, especially after he's been convicted five times of driving while intoxicated.
The defense, however, disagreed with this number.
When the companies ran a background check before hiring him, his latest conviction in 2006 did not show up for some reason, Cole said.
Cole pointed to a 2013 Texas Department of Public Safety study, which he said may explain why companies are cutting corners.
In Karnes, LaSalle and Dimmit counties, where the Eagle Ford Shale activity is most concentrated, crashes involving commercial vehicles increased by 470 percent from 2009 to 2011, according to the study.
"Because of the increase in demand for trucks, these small companies have popped up, and when you're dealing with vehicles that are hauling 40 tons of materials, safety has to be addressed," Cole said.
For this situation, the defendants were constructing an oil-field pad. Rodriguez was delivering gravel and going about 70 mph, Cole said.
Stovall will receive $5.4 million in payments throughout his life.
He has undergone numerous surgeries to his back and continues to be treated for a head injury.
Armando and Maria Olachia and their children, a Corpus Christi family who was also hit by Rodriguez in the same wreck, were added to the lawsuit later. They will receive $4.1 million, Cole said.
Lynn Rada, of San Antonio, represented AW Trucking and Jet Maintenance. Kevin D. Cullen, of Victoria, assisted her. He deferred questions to her, but she could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Representatives for both AW Trucking and Jet Maintenance declined to comment.
Rodriguez's attorney R. Sean Page, also of San Antonio, could not be reached for comment.
The Olachias' attorney, Don Crook, of Dallas, could not be reached for comment.