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Texas jury awards $730M in fatal crash involving nuclear sub propeller

Texas jury awards $730M in fatal crash involving nuclear sub propeller

A Texas jury awarded $730 million on Monday to the family of a 73-year-old woman who was killed in a 2016 collision with a tractor pulling a flatbed trailer carrying an oversized load.

Toni Combest was killed Feb. 21, 2016, in Titus County, Texas, near the town of Mount Pleasant, when her vehicle collided with a truck operated by Landstar Ranger Inc. hauling a 197,000-pound propeller for a Navy nuclear submarine across a bridge. 

According to court documents, the propeller was being transported in a multistate shipment, a portion of which travelled from El Paso to Texarkana, Texas. The load was being escorted by both front and back escort vehicles. The truck and escort vehicles were traveling southbound on U.S. Highway 271 and Combest was traveling northbound.

The truck was in the northbound lane of the bridge when Combest began crossing it, according to the court documents, which said the driver of the truck was able to swerve the vehicle out of Combest’s lane but was unable to remove the entire load from her path before it struck her vehicle. 

Combest was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash.

Her family sued Landstar Ranger, S&M Pilot Service and 2A Pilot Cars for negligence.

Landstar Ranger settled about a week prior to scheduled jury selection for $50 million. S&M Pilot Service, the employer of the rear escort driver, also settled prior to trial for $1 million. The trial went forward against 2A Pilot Cars, the employer of the driver of the front escort vehicle.

The jury awarded $480 million in compensatory damages and $250 million in punitive damages, making it one of the largest wrongful death verdicts in the country.

“This part of Texas is full of narrow bridges and yet they had no plan for navigating them,” Brent Goudarzi, a partner with Goudarzi & Young and an attorney for the plaintiffs, said in a statement.

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23 November 2021, 23:28