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$100M Wrongful Death Trial Over Motorcyclist’s Collision With Armored Truck Settles During Jury Deliberations

Written by David Siegel, of Courtroom View Network on Oct 4, 2019 8:26:29 AM

“Dallas, Texas – The family of a motorcyclist who crashed into a turning armored truck struck a settlement with security company GardaWorld shortly after a Texas state court jury began deliberations in a trial that could have resulted in a $100 million verdict.

The confidential settlement was disclosed on September 26th, a day after jurors heard closing arguments accusing Garda, a Canadian-based company with over 200 offices worldwide, of being responsible for the death of Virgilio Martinez Garcia in 2018.

Garcia was riding alongside and slightly behind a Garda truck that suddenly attempted to make a left turn from the far right lane. He slammed into the side of the truck and died at the scene.

Police initially blamed Garcia for the accident, citing his excessive speed (an argument repeated by Garda at trial), but surveillance video discovered after the accident prompted his wife, Beyanca Martinez, to file a lawsuit and police to charge the truck’s driver, King Easley, with negligent homicide.

A grand jury declined to indict Easley, but the lawsuit filed by Martinez and her children went to trial on September 18.

The full trial was webcast and recorded gavel-to-gavel by Courtroom View Network, and is available to subscribers as part of CVN’s Video Library which includes hundreds of civil trials from throughout the United States, including Texas.

Attorney Chris Hamilton of Hamilton Wingo LLP, representing Martinez, told jurors during his closing argument that Garda had a history of failing to adequately supervise armored truck drivers, both in terms of their vetting and conduct behind the wheel.

“Garda doesn’t appreciate the value of human life as the community does when they’re making business decisions,” Hamilton said, prompting an immediate objection from Garda’s attorneys.

Hamilton argued that Garda offered drivers no training specific to armored trucks and that Easley’s record of traffic violations should have disqualified him from driving a heavy vehicle. Hamilton told jurors that Easley received a speeding ticket after his first shift with the company, and when questioned about his habits under oath Easley responded, “That’s just how I drive.”

Hamilton told jurors that in addition to Easley’s own conduct and the company’s supposed pattern of failing to address safety issues with drivers, that the accident was also caused by Garda’s decision not to install GPS monitors in their fleet of trucks.

Besides allowing Garda to better track and monitor the speeds of their drivers, Hamilton told jurors a GPS, which he said other armored truck companies use, could have prevented Easley from needing to suddenly make a sharp, illegal turn.

“What is going on in the mindset of this company that all their competitors are doing it, and they won’t,” Hamilton asked the jury.

He asked the jury to award Martinez and her children between $80 and $100 million, the same amount he initially suggested during his opening statement.

During his closing statement on behalf of Garda, attorney Chris White, a partner with Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP, conceded that Easley made an illegal turn from the far right lane but argued Garcia also bore responsibility for the accident.

White argued that the evidence showed Garcia was driving 47 mph in a 35 mph zone, a speed that required almost twice the distance to stop than at the legal limit. White suggested that at 35 mph Garcia would have had time to avoid the collision entirely.

White did not tell jurors what apportionment of fault they should determine, but he did repeatedly emphasize that any award they return in favor of the plaintiffs should be “fair and reasonable,” suggesting the amount sought by attorneys for the plaintiff was an attempt to “stir up” the jury and not based on the facts of the case.

“We want for this family what is fair and reasonable under the laws of Texas,” he said, suggesting a total award of less than $5 million.

Attorneys for the plaintiff declined to comment on the settlement beyond confirming the case had resolved. An attorney for Garda did not respond to a request for comment. 

Attorneys for Garda filed a motion prior to the start of the trial seeking to bar news media from filming the proceedings, but those objections were overruled by Judge Tonya Parker.

The plaintiffs are also represented by Ray Khirallah, Stephen Blackburn and Andrea Fitzgerald, also of Hamilton Wingo.

Easley and Garda are also represented by Edward Davis and Brittney Angelich from the Dallas office of Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP, a powerhouse defense firm with approximately 1,200 attorneys in 51 offices throughout the United States, in addition to Jessica Barger and E. Marie Jamison of Wright Close & Barger LLP, a Houston-based defense firm.

The case is captioned Beyanca Martinez, et al, v. King Easley, et al., case number DC-18-02249, in Dallas County’s 116th Civil District Court.”

Original article found here.