Plaintiff James Culver filed a wrongful death claim in a Georgia court against truck driver Orlando Luke and Georgia-based transportation company LF XPress Inc. after his mother, Cheryl Culver, was killed in a traffic accident. The suit recently was settled with terms not disclosed. Witnesses explained that Luke went through a red light at an intersection on Troy-O'Fallon Road striking Culver's vehicle head-on, causing her death.
Prior Criminal Case
Records showed in previous years, Luke had been involved in a high-speed chase, a hit-and-run accident and to have been operating a vehicle without insurance. That night he was arguing with his girlfriend, a passenger, and was high on crack cocaine. Recently, a criminal trial relating to the incident concluded where a jury found him guilty of operating under the influence and vehicular homicide.
Luke was speeding at the time when his semi crashed into Culver's Ford Escape and three other vehicles. Judge Robert Haida of the St. Clair County Circuit Court imposed the maximum 14-year-prison sentence.
Luke, operating a Kenworth model 18-wheel truck at the time, had a duty to show reasonable care in relation to other motorists. He demonstrated negligence and did not exercise reasonable care based on the following:
- A failure to observe (stop at) a red traffic light
- Operating while under the influence drugs
- Operating at a rate of speed in excess of the posted limit
- Demonstrating recklessness and disregard for public safety
Luke owned LF Xpress, Inc. and at the time was operating within the scope of his employment in conducting business on behalf of the company. LF Xpress was found to be accountable based on joint and several liabilities under the Respondeat Superior doctrine. Luke's actions, inactions, and demonstration of negligence were the causes of the damages to the plaintiff. Georgia statute states that when an employee is involved in an accident while conducting company business, the employer may be vicariously liable.
Negligence of LF Xpress, Inc.
The company had responsibility for the actions regarding the safety of the vehicle and the driver. Negligence was demonstrated by the following:
- Failing to sufficiently training their drivers
- Failing to implement sufficient safety procedures or programs
- A failure in supervision of drivers
- A failure in the proper qualification of their drivers
- A failure to communicate and enforce policies regarding driver usage of illegal drugs
Georgia Wrongful Death Statute
Claims of wrongful death may be brought by claimants according to statute and by the estate. Individuals who may bring a claim on behalf of the deceased include a spouse, or the children or parents for those not married. The statute does allow for punitive damages if the defendant is shown to have shown willful misconduct, malice, fraud or conscious indifference. Amid tort reform efforts, punitive damages had a $250,000 cap put in place. Exceptions do exist in product liability actions, in cases with intentionally committed acts, or those involving a defendant driving while intoxicated.