A federal jury in Tucson, Ariz., has awarded $15 million to a man who lost his right leg after being hit by a tractor-trailer four years ago, the Associated Press reported. Jurors on Wednesday, Nov. 8, ordered Little Bear Transport of Utah to pay Bruce Austin $5 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages following a five-day trial in U.S. District Court, according to the AP.
According to court documents, a Little Bear Transport truck was traveling west on Interstate 10 about 25 miles east of Willcox on Dec. 24, 2002, when it swerved into the median and struck several vehicles involved in an earlier fatal crash; the out-of-control rig then hit Austin, the 58-year-old owner of a tow-truck company, who was in the process of loading up one of the disabled vehicles. Austin’s right leg was severed, along with his left thumb, and he suffered a broken left shoulder and some broken ribs.
Little Bear Transport admitted the big rig’s driver, Kenneth Virgil Howard, had falsified his logbook before the crash in hopes of making it home for Christmas, according to court documents cited by the press.
Richard Gonzales, Austin’s lawyer, told the Arizona Daily Star he expected the verdict to be appealed. Large monetary penalties in civil suits often are lessened, sometimes drastically, on appeal.