Trucker Sued by Family of Woman Killed by Runaway Big Rig Tire
Peach County, GA – The family of a Georgia woman killed last year by a runaway big rig tire has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the trucker and trucking company they say is responsible.
The family of 36-year-old Jennifer Thomas of Gray, GA has filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia against 31-year-old truck driver Yurien Bello Chavez, and Miami, FL-based U.S. Xpress Transport alleging each were “negligent” in Thomas’s death.
The fatal accident occurred on August 11, 2019 along Interstate 75 shortly before 2 p.m. near Byron, GA.
Investigators say Chavez was operating a 2003 Freightliner tractor-trailer owned by US Xpress Transport northbound when two trailer tires came loose and flew off.
One of the loose tires bounced across the median and into the southbound lanes colliding into the windshield of Thomas’s 2016 Acura MDX.
Thomas, who was driving, lost control and struck a vehicle to her right before crossing back to the left, exiting the roadway off the shoulder and striking the concrete median, according to the Peach County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO).
Thomas was pronounced dead at the scene.
Her parents, Darrell and Jennifer Partee, along with her minor son, Andrew Thomas, were each passengers in the vehicle at the time of the crash and each suffered non-life threatening injuries.
Following an investigation, Chavez was charged with 2nd degree vehicular homicide, unsafe vehicle/equipment, and defective tires – all misdemeanors.
The suit, filed on January 9, 2020, on behalf of Thomas’s spouse, Perry Thomas, her parents and her son, alleges Chavez failed in his duty to operate the tractor-trailer in “a safe and reasonable manner, and to properly inspect and maintain the trailer to ensure it could be operated safely.”
Further, the complaint alleges US Xpress Transport is “vicariously liable” for Chavez’s failures and was negligent in its hiring and retention of Chavez.
Additionally, the complaint contends US Xpress Transport:
• breached its duty of care by failing to train its employees in the proper operation, maintenance, and inspection of its vehicles;
• failed to conduct the legally required inspections, repairs, and maintenance on the tractor-trailer involved in the incident;
• breached its duty of care by failing to inspect, repair, and maintain its commercial motor vehicles to ensure they were safe for operation on public roads.
However, the complaint does not outline specific evidence to support the above claims.
In fact, according to the complaint, the Plaintiff’s accident reconstruction expert has yet to inspect the tractor, trailer or tires involved in the accident.
Progressive Express Insurance Company is also named as a defendant in the case.
The suit seeks compensatory damages to exceed at least $75,000 “for the full value of the life of Jennifer Thomas,” as well as for the infliction of “mental and emotional pain, trauma, and distress.”
The Plaintiffs also seek punitive damages claiming Chavez and US Xpress Transport displayed “a reckless disregard for the safety of others, malice, or that entire want of care that would raise the presumption of conscious indifference to consequences.”
According to data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), US Xpress Transport operated three power units and employed four drivers until it was placed out-of-service on October 12, 2019.
Transportation Nation Network will continue to follow the case.