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Tractor Trailer Accident Results in $35M Verdict in Wrongful Death Suit

The family of a Kansas City woman killed in a 2006 tractor trailer accident has been awarded $35 million by a Missouri jury. 

The wrongful death lawsuit was filed by the family of Anita Gibbs, the former principal of Askew Elementary School in Kansas City, against CenTra Trucking Company, whose driver, George Albright, Jr., was blamed for the crash. Gibbs and three other women killed in the crash were stopped in their vehicle due to another accident on Interstate 70, east of Columbia, when Albright’s tractor-trailer slammed into the rear of their vehicle.

According to a report by The Kansas City Star, Plaintiff attorneys argued that Albright was fatigued at the time of the accident and had falsified his driving logs to show that he had complied with federal truck driving regulations. Albright’s phone records allegedly showed that he was in Illinois when his log said that he was in Missouri, indicating that he was making false entries in order to meet federal requirements dictating the maximum amount of driving and the minimum amount of rest a commercial truck driver must adhere to each day.

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations limit truck drivers to a maximum of 11 hours driving between 10 consecutive hours off duty. They may not drive more than 60 hours in seven consecutive days or 70 hours in eight consecutive days and can only restart a new 7 to 8 day work cycle after taking 34 or more hours off duty. The regulations are meant to prevent tractor trailer accidents caused by tired drivers whose judgment and reactions are slowed, or who fall asleep behind the wheel.

The other women killed in the accident include Beverly Garrett, 57, Beulah Hunter, 94 and Elois Jeans, 81. The families of those three victims settled out of court with the company in April 2008 for $18 million. Albright was charged with four counts of second-degree manslaughter that year, but was found to be not guilty.

The jury awarded Gibbs’ family $5.25 million in compensatory damages and $30 million in punitive damages.

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