Report: Trucking firm in crash suit ordered to pay $11 million

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A South Dakota trucking company reportedly has been ordered to pay nearly $11 million to a Central Kentucky couple after it failed to respond to a lawsuit over a highway accident. U.S. District Judge Joseph Hood in Lexington, Ky., admonished East West Motor Express of Black Hawk, S.D., for its failure to respond to the lawsuit, and ordered the company to pay the unusual default judgment, the Associated Press reported.

Hood encouraged the company to settle before an appeals court could review the matter, according to the AP. “This is an extreme case,” Hood wrote in an opinion released Tuesday, Dec. 26. “In case the court needs to spell it out again, it would be in East West’s best interest to make more than a token attempt to settle this matter.”

Robert and Janet Orms of Danville sued East West in August 2005 after a crash on Interstate 64 near Owingsville, according to court documents. Robert Orms, who was injured in the crash, claimed that an oversize commercial truck owned by East West contributed to the collision because the driver was negligent in the way he handled the vehicle.

In motions filed after the default judgment was entered earlier this year, East West denied any liability. It said the failure to file a response was a clerical error, and that company general manager William Stevens never received a copy of the lawsuit. “Neither Mr. Stevens nor anyone else at East West learned of the default judgment entered against East West or the details of the incident in question until November 2006,” Charles Cassis, the attorney for East West, wrote in a court filing.

Court records show that Stevens signed a letter acknowledging receipt of a notice that the company was being sued and received a copy of the suit. East West attorneys said the lawsuit was not attached to the letter and that Stevens wasn’t aware of what he was signing, according to the AP; Hood didn’t buy the company’s story, and he ordered it to pay the couple. East West said in court filings it will appeal.