In April 2007, plaintiff Ricky Jones, 39, was driving a tractor-trailer in an interstate in Richmond when he struck the rear end of a Moen Inc. tractor-trailer. Moen is a wholly owned subsidiary of Fortune Brands Inc.
Jones was originally a defendant in a suit brought by another party who was in a subsequent accident after the collision between Jones and the Moen tractor-trailer. Jones subsequently made a cross-claim again Moen and other defendants.
The claim made by the plaintiff in the original suit was no longer pending and the other defendants were no longer in the case. Thus, Jone's claim against Moen proceeded to trial.
Jones' counsel contended that evidence developed in discovery established that Moen's driver had stopped upon the interstate's emergency shoulder approximately nine minutes prior to the accident. After accelerating to 25 miles-per-hour, the Moen driver merged from the shoulder into the right travel lane of the interstate and into the path of Jones.
Jones argued that Moen and its driver were negligent for stopping on the emergency shoulder in violation of federal regulations. He also argued that Moen's driver was negligent for pulling from the shoulder into the left travel lane of the interstate at 25 mph and for failing to yield the right of way to Jones, who was lawfully traveling in the lane into which the Moen driver was attempting to merge.
Jones' counsel argued that the actions of the Moen driver left Jones, who had no memory of the accident, with no reasonable opportunity to avoid the collision and that Jones had acted with all due care under the circumstances.
Jones' counsel also stated that the evidence at trial was conflicting as to whether Moen's driver activated its left turn signal prior to its merge from the shoulder into the right lane of travel.
Moen admitted its driver was negligent, but argued that Jones was contributorily negligent. Moen's counsel argued that Jones should have seen the Moen tractor-trailer merging into his lane and should have slowed, changed lanes or taken other evasive action.
The jury found for Jones and awarded him $23 million plus interest of 6 percent on the $3 million amount, which plaintiff's counsel stated totaled $700,000. Thus, the plaintiff's total award would be $23.7 million.
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