Truckers To Pay $27M After Road Rage Battle Cost A Motorist Her Life
Pendleton, Oregon – A 2016 road rage incident between truck drivers cost a motorist her life and now an Oregon jury has decided it is going to cost the trucking companies, as well as the drivers, almost $27 million.
30-year-old Sara Allison was behind the wheel of a Ford Focus on June 1, 2016, heading east on Highway 20 near milepost 156, when flatbed semi-driver, 32-year-old James Decou, was heading west.
What Allison did not know is that Decou, who was driving for Brigham City, Utah-based Smoot Brothers Transportation, was in a road rage cat-and-mouse with Jonathan Hogaboom, the driver of an RV for Wakarusa, IN-based Horizon Transport.
Decou attempted an illegal pass of Hogaboom on the two lane highway and struck Allison’s Ford head-on killing her and seriously injuring a passenger, her husband, 27-year-old Matthew Allison.
After an investigation by Oregon State Police (OSP), it was discovered that the road rage tension had been going on for miles… almost 200 to be exact.
Hogaboom first became embroiled in a tit-for-tat with Decou’s fellow Smoot Brothers driver, Peter Barnes, along Interstate 84 in Idaho, earlier that day, while transporting a luxury $750,000 motorhome from Indiana to Oregon for Horizon Transport.
Barnes said Hogaboom cut in front of him and slammed on his brakes setting the stage for the feud.
It all came to a fatal halt later that evening when Decou’s semi plowed into Allison’s 4-wheeler.
Decou was later charged and is now in jail serving a roughly six year jail sentence for his role in the incident.
Barnes and Hogaboom were never charged.
However, Matthew Allison sued the drivers and their companies on behalf of his deceased wife’s estate and for her wrongful death.
On May 10, 2019, after a nine-day trial and deliberating for almost six hours, the Pendleton jury returned a verdict in favor of Matthew Allison and the estate of the deceased Sara E. Allison, finding that the concerted negligence of the transportation companies and their drivers caused the fatal June 2016 crash.
The jury awarded Matthew Allison $600,000 in economic damages and $7 million in noneconomic damages, and his wife’s estate $2.38 million in economic damages and $10 million in noneconomic damages.
The jury also imposed $1.5 million in punitive damages against Smoot Brothers and $5 million in punitive damages against Horizon Transport.
However, in a twist, Law360.com is reporting that Allison’s estate reached a settlement with Smoot Brothers two weeks before the trial.
As part of that settlement, Smoot Brothers agreed to pay $900,000 to settle the claims against it, leaving Horizon Transport responsible for roughly $25 million in damages — the total verdict minus the punitive damages the jury imposed against Smoot and its drivers.
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