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 settlement.
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, of Chicago.