A jaw-dropping $1 billion verdict was reached in the wrongful death case of Connor Dzion. An 18-year-old from Jacksonville, FL, Dzion was killed in a terrible trucking accident in 2017. Two different companies were found liable in the verdict.
On Labor Day weekend in 2017, Dzion was stuck in traffic on the heavily populated I-95 route. A trucking accident had caused the standstill. About an hour after the initial accident, another truck slammed into the backed-up traffic. It was this second accident that killed Dzion. However, both truckers were found negligent and their companies were held liable.
It was a driver for AJD Business Services, based out of the state of New York, that was in the initial accident that caused the traffic jam. This driver, en route to Miami, had been on the road for 25 hours—well above the 11-hour per day limit truckers are bound by.
This alone was enough to establish liability, but there was more. The driver didn’t even have a commercial driver’s license (CDL). The fact AJD put a driver on the road without a CDL, who then caused an accident that created the conditions for a fatal crash, left them open to liability.
Kahkashan Carrier of Canada owned the second truck, which delivered the fatal blow. Going 70 mph on cruise control, the driver didn’t hit his brakes until a second prior to impact, according to the data recorder in the truck.
“He (the second truck driver) failed to see stopped cars…blinking lights, flashing lights, emergency vehicles,” said Curry Pajcic, the attorney representing the Dzion family.
The investigation after the crash found that both trucking companies had all but ignored the laws meant to assure truck drivers are reliable. There was no effort to establish driver fitness before assigning them a long cross-country haul on one of the nation’s busiest interstates.
For that reason, the jury hit the companies with $900 million in punitive damages, money that comes on top of $100 million awarded to Connor’s parents for pain and suffering. It took just 4 hours of deliberation for the jury to come back with that number, an indication of how clear-cut the trucking companies’ liability was seen.
Both companies remain in business as of now, but the only way to avoid having to pay out on the verdict would be to file for bankruptcy.
“This is a message to all those bad trucking companies: play by the rules the good trucking companies play by,” Pajcic said. “Whether or not they will remain in business is another story.”
Regardless of whether the Dzions end up collecting anything, nothing can replace the loss of their son. “Pure hell having to relive everything all over again,” Connor’s mother Melissa said. “No parent should ever have to live this. Ever.”