A waste disposal lorry driver, whose spine was crushed following a crash due to the front wheel of his vehicle collapsing, has been awarded 11.4 million dollars in compensation for injury due unsafe lorry at the U.S District Court for the Northern District of California.
Raymond Mariolle (46) from Brentwood, California, had driven waste disposal lorries for Waste Management Co. for more than twenty years prior to his accident in 2007. On the day in question, the court heard that Raymond was driving his lorry near the Livermore airport when the front right hub of the vehicle broke – causing the front right wheel of the lorry to detach and sending the 55,000 pound vehicle crashing to the ground.
As a result of the accident Raymond sustained a compression injury to his spine for which he has already undergone three operations and has more scheduled for the future. Raymond has to take strong painkillers to cope with the pain of his injuries and has unsuccessfully attempted to return to work in a non-driving capacity.
After seeking legal advice, Raymond made a claim for compensation for injury due to unsafe lorry against the manufacturer of the vehicle – Volvo Trucks – the hub maker – Consolidated Metro – and the company that had modified the vehicle – Wittke Manufacturing – claiming that all three companies had known since 2004 that the aluminium hubs used in the vehicle´s modification were inadequate for the weight placed on them.
The three defendants claimed that the hub had only broken due to the excessive amount of rubbish collected by the waste company and that Raymond had a pre-existing back condition which was only exacerbated by the accident. However, Raymond´s solicitor was able to produce evidence that engineers at Consolidated Metro had acknowledged the existing hubs were not sufficiently strong for the loads put on them and that alternatives should be used in the future.
The jury at the U.S District Court for the Northern District of California found in Raymond´s favour, and awarded him 7.5 million dollars in general damages for the pain and suffering he had experienced with a further award of 2.4 million dollars in special damages for lost wages and medical costs. The jury also awarded Raymond´s wife – Regina – 1.5 million dollars for loss of marital and family relations. Liability was divided between all three defendants with Consolidated Metro being assigned 52 percent of the blame and 30 percent on Volvo Trucks.