I-94 Crash Widow Files Wrongful Death Suit Against Trucker And Trucking Company
Racine County, Wisconsin – The widow of a truck driver who perished in the fiery crash along I-94 last week has filed a wrongful death suit against the truck driver and the company she says is responsible for the accident.
Lillian Moss Johnson, of Milwaukee, is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages for the death of her late husband Jefferey Johnson, who died in the crash, according to a report in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Johnson’s suit, which was filed Thursday in Milwaukee County Circuit Court, alleges the fiery crash which occurred on Wednesday, June 19 at approximately 11 a.m. was due to a southbound tractor-trailer, driven by 40-year-old Kenneth Rogers.
The suit contends Rogers lost control after making a lane change and over-correcting.
According to authorities, the big rig then hit the median wall, causing it to give way and be pushed into the northbound lanes.
Three passenger vehicles then collided with Rogers’ overturned tractor-trailer.
A northbound big rig, driven by Johnson of Taylor Made Express Inc., swerved right to avoid a collision with Rogers and the three motorists.
Johnson’s lawsuit argues it was her husband, not Rogers, who sacrificed himself for the protection of others on the interstate that day, and perished when his tractor-trailer burst into flames after plummeting 30 feet onto East Frontage Road.
Following the crash, multiple local news outlets reported Rogers’ family believed he was the one who chose to drive off of I-94.
However, Johnson’s lawsuit claims authorities identified Johnson through dental records.
At a press briefing last week, Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling, referred to the truck driver who made the sacrifice as “heroic.”
Though he did not identify Johnson or Rogers, he said, “He turned off the roadway, rather than crashing into three other vehicles and a semi. I would suggest to you that that is very heroic… risking his own life in an effort to save potentially three other vehicles.”
Johnson’s lawsuit names Rogers and Warehouse Transport Services, a division of Hansen Storage Company, as defendants.
Johnson’s suit says it was Rogers’ negligent and reckless driving that caused the crash.
It also claims Warehouse Transport was negligent in its hiring, training and supervision of Rogers.
Milwaukee lawyer Jay Urban filed the lawsuit on behalf of Johnson’s estate.
He told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “He (Johnson) took so much pride in his driving. The silver lining in this was what a hero he was. His first thought was to save lives, almost like a first responder.”
Further, Urban told the local news outlet it was important to file the suit quickly in order to allow Johnson’s estate the opportunity to gather information about the investigation.
Interestingly, the suit does not name the Wisconsin DOT (WiDOT) as bearing any responsibility for the crash.
Transportation Nation Network (TNN) recently reported WiDOT officials were coming under intense scrutiny for its handling of the 18-mile construction zone along I-94 where the accident occurred.
According to WiDOT spokesperson Micheal Pyritz, lanes and shoulders were narrowed, and the speed limit was lowered from 70 mph to 60 mph.
Pyritz defended the department’s handling of the site, asserting the construction zone had followed standard safety protocols on the day of the accident.
Pyritz did acknowledge motorists have complained about the project, but said the department had not received more complaints than normal for a construction site.
Still, motorists contend the speed limit reduction was insufficient and the lanes are too narrow for the amount of traffic that flows along I-94.
One motorist complained the narrowing of lanes along that stretch amounted to a “death trap.”
TNN will continue to follow new developments.
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