A Civil District Court jury for the Parish of Orleans, Louisiana awarded a grand total of $90,751,808.01 in damages for the wrongful death and injuries of seven individuals following a collision between an 18-wheeler and a GMC Yukon on I-10 near LaPlace, Louisiana. The accident occurred shortly after midnight on December 25, 2008. Tammy Westbrook was operating an 18-wheeler on I-10 and rear-ended the GMC Yukon driven by Lewis Knoten and had four passengers. The Yukon was pushed into the rear of a Lincoln LS driven by Alvin Welch who had no passengers. Upon impact, the Yukon caught fire and three of its passengers were killed, while the others sustained injuries.
Although the published decision does not provide a detailed account of the injuries incurred by the plaintiffs, Laila Knoten, one of the Yukon’s passengers that had lost her mother, had to care for an injured father and had injuries of her own following the accident, received the highest award of $44,405,104.62. The next highest award was $37,804,427.02 to another passenger of the Yukon.
Commercial transportation attorneys in New Orleans know all too well what they face when their clients are the cause of tragic incidents. While liability may be adverse, mitigating damages, leaving no stone unturned, pre-trial litigation, and presenting the best defense to a jury are the only ways to avoid absolute runaway juries in a nation of ever-increasing verdicts.
Knoten v. Westbrook
Philip D. Lorio, IV