March 2, 2018
On July 7, 2014, brothers Matthew and Michael Lennig were cruising in their pickup truck along California’s Route 14 heading for outdoor fun in Mammoth, ATVs in tow. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a CRST Inc. commercial truck traveling in the opposite direction veered across the center dividing line and into their lane. Boxed in by a construction wall running along the right side of the highway, the brothers were unable to swerve to avoid the oncoming big rig, and the commercial truck struck them on the driver’s side.
The driver, Matthew, the younger brother, was hospitalized for weeks following the accident, recovering from fractured ribs and requiring numerous serious procedures on his left arm. His brother Michael was relatively more fortunate, but still suffered spinal compression fractions that required surgery. In addition to their physical wounds, which will cause lasting physical pain and impairment, the brothers also suffer from severe psychological trauma, according to their lawyer.
Well over three years later, the Lenning brothers finally received some measure of justice when, on February 22, a California jury awarded them a total of $53 million in damages, which CRST is liable to pay.
“We are glad the jury understood the magnitude of the physical and emotional injuries our clients suffered. Not only [did] they suffer significant physical injuries, but the emotional injuries were catastrophic and life-altering,” said Brian Panish, attorney for the plaintiffs, according to Law360.
Though it was not even towing a trailer at the time of the accident, according to Panish, the CRST trailer alone weighed in at approximately 18 tons, giving the Lennig brothers little chance in their 3-ton pickup. Panish further argued that the driver of the CRST trailer had veered into oncoming traffic to prevent a vehicle behind him from passing, making the act that caused the accident an intentional one.
“[The driver of the CRST trailer] was angry with the vehicle that was trying to pass him,” Panish told the jury during his opening statement. “He was angry and upset, and what drove right into—intentionally driving a 36,000-pound vehicle into oncoming one-lane traffic.”
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