(July 12, 2011) At 5:30 am on September 14, 2005, a logging truck accident resulted in permanent disability to Kecia Huckleby, who was not wearing a seat belt during the accident. Huckleby, 17, was in the passenger seat while her boyfriend – also wearing no seat belt – collided with a truck attempting a U-turn on a four-lane highway in the dark.
Huckleby needed to be airlifted from the scene, and remained in a coma for three weeks, while the truck driver was uninjured. Her attorney said that she can not be left alone for long periods of time, and has a memory span of only sixty to ninety minutes as a result of the accident.
Huckleby sued the truck driver, the trucking company and its owner, her boyfriend, and the Florida Department of Transportation. The owner of the company was listed in the suit because he told the driver to use this particular road to avoid a weighing station. The truck driver claims the reason he was making the U-turn is because a DOT officer spotted his truck on this road and told him to go back and get weighed.
It was evident on trial how much this accident affected Huckleby. In fact, when she was called to the stand, the clerk asked her to raise her right hand, and it took her several minutes to complete the task, switching back and forth between her right and left hands.
Huckleby’s boyfriend, Chandler Crumbley argued that there was not sufficient time for him to react to avoid the log truck. Neither he or Huckleby remember the accident, but he only suffered a broken leg, a few broken ribs, and a concussion. The other defendants tried to assign fault to Huckleby for not wearing her seat belt, but Crumbley chose not to because he wasn’t wearing one, either.
Huckleby’s lawyer refuted the seat belt argument by showing the damage to the car on the passenger side, and stating that had she been wearing her seat belt, she would have died. Her lawyer also was able to show that even a belted dummy in Huckleby’s position would have hit the dashboard so hard that a severe heard injury would have resulted.
The trial lasted thirteen days, and jurors deliberated for eight hours over a two-day period. Fault was divided four ways: 10 percent to Huckleby for not wearing her seat belt, 10 percent to the owner of the trucking company, 25 percent to the Florida DOT, and 55 percent to the company itself. Notice that the driver of the truck is not listed above. Are you surprised?
Therefore, even though the jury awarded $13.1 million, it will be reduced by 35 percent, leaving Huckleby with roughly $8.5 million. Huckleby also filed claims for punitive damages, but they were denied, as the jury was not unanimous, which is required under Florida law.