A Chicago federal jury has awarded $5.2 million to a couple
injured in a 2012 crash with a trailer loaded with vegetable oil that decoupled
from a truck on Interstate 57 near downstate Effingham.
On Jan. 24, the jury entered the verdict in favor of Matthew
Burdick and Jamie Pinkstaff-Burdick, ordering the company that employed the
driver of the vegetable oil truck to pay them for their medical expenses, pain,
suffering, anguish and other maladies associated with the crash.
Burdick was awarded a total of $3.84 million, while the jury
ordered an additional $1.35 million be paid to Pinkstaff-Burdick.
U.S. District Judge Matthew F. Kennelly had presided over
the case and the trial.
The case had landed in Chicago federal court after the
couple initially filed suit in Cook County Circuit Court against trucking firm
New Prime Inc. The company is based in Springfiled, Mo.
The company’s website bills the firm as “North America’s
most successful refrigerated, flatbed, tanker and intermodal carrier.”
According to the lawsuit, Burdick and Pinkstaff-Burdick, of
downstate Gilman, were driving southbound on I-57 approaching Effingham on Jan.
20, 2012, when their vehicle collided with a trailer that had become separated
from a truck driven by a driver employed by Prime, identified in the complaint
as Brian B. Stapler.
The complaint alleged Stapler had not properly coupled the
trailer, which was loaded with vegetable oil, to his trailer before he began
driving that day. The lawsuit indicated
the road surface was icy at the time of the collision, and alleged the truck
driver had “swerved” before the trailer decoupled.
At some point, however, the trailer separated from the
truck, and collided with the Burdicks’ minivan.
The Burdicks filed suit in 2014. Their complaint did not
detail the injuries they suffered.
The initial lawsuit had included a number of other
defendants, including Daimler Trucks North America, which made the 2012
Freightliner truck driven by Stapler that day. The lawsuit had alleged a design
defect could have led drivers to conclude a trailer was properly coupled to the
truck, when it was not.
However, the truckmaker was dismissed from the lawsuit in March
2015, according to court records. The court documents make no mention of a
The trial was held Jan. 17-24.
The plaintiffs were represented in the case by attorneys
with the firm of Horwitz Horwitz & Associates, of Chicago.
Prime Inc. was defended by the firm of Dowd & Dowd Ltd.,
of Chicago. Daimler was represented by the firm of Swanson, Martin & Bell,