Many businesses own and operate large fleets of vehicles. These vehicles are essential for the transport of goods and personnel. Fleet vehicles may also operate in specialist roles – such as cherry pickers used by highway maintenance companies. Fleet vehicles provide great moving advertising space that is seen as essential by many business leaders.
Unfortunately, the roads are not statistically safe places to operate. Company vehicles are regularly involved in accidents – as all vehicles on the road are liable to be. In some cases, companies are taken to court by the victims of road traffic accidents caused by their vehicles. Victims are rightfully allowed to seek compensation after a road accident, and usually receive a just sum that can be paid easily using insurance claims. Sometimes, however, a verdict may be returned that sees a company hemorrhaging money. Some judges and juries may seek to charge punitive reparations. These huge verdicts are known as ‘nuclear verdicts’ in the fleet operation field. Here are some of the largest nuclear verdicts ever returned.
RAI Transport – 70.5 Million Dollars
On December 19th 2019, a California Jury ordered the Bakersfield trucking company RAI transport to pay personal injury reparations of 70.5 million dollars to Tomasa Cuevas and her family. She was driving to a shop with her children to purchase school clothes when a tractor trailer owned by RAI smashed into her SUV – injuring the entire family. Two of the family members suffered traumatic brain injuries and fractures that required long term treatment.
The driver of the truck, Amarjit Aulakh, had ignored a red light signal before the crash. He was found to be driving with a suspended license and had been involved in 14 previous crashes. Fitting a proper collision avoidance system in their trucks may have helped RAI to avoid a nuclear verdict. This case was, at the time, the largest personal injury order that the state of California had seen.
Country Wide RV Transport – 26.6 Million Dollars
Country Wide RV Transport had to shut its entire 500 plus vehicle fleet down after an accident that resulted in a massive nuclear verdict. The company, which hauled RVs, was found to be responsible for the death of a couple who were killed after an RV transport truck swerved into them when the driver was asleep at the wheel. The payment was ordered to be made to the surviving children of the couple, and the company had no choice but to cease operations.
Coca Cola – 21.6 Million Dollars
Coca Cola is famous for its huge fleet of branded trucks. The soda giant was forced to pay 21.6 million dollars to a woman who was struck by a truck while the driver was on his cell phone. Coca Cola was found to have an entirely inadequate driver ruleset and did not communicate the dangers of using a cell phone on the road to its drivers. For this the company was deemed to be partially responsible for the awful crash.