I just read a very troubling article discussing one of the greatest road hazards facing both other drivers and pedestrians alike: overworked and unchecked truck drivers. And in this particular case, the outcome was tragic - and predictable: a truck driver who had well exceeded the number of legally permitted hours behind the wheel, was exhausted and fell asleep. As a result, he rammed into the back of a school bus that had 22 children on board, causing the bus to burst into flames, and killing one of its passengers, a 12 year-old girl.

It gets even worse.

Apparently, earlier that morning, the truck had been stopped by troopers at a weigh station, and been given an "out-of-service order," which meant that the truck should be taken in immediately for repairs by a certified mechanic.before it would be permitted to continue on its route.

The driver ignored this order, however, and continued on his way. (Instead, he made some hasty repairs on his own.)

And, not surprisingly, at depositions it was revealed that the trucking company had no internal oversight to assure that the drivers complied with these laws.

The result?

A $54,000 fine from the United States Department of Transportation.

While I certainly agree that there should be some mechanism or disincentive to filing frivolous or idiotic lawsuits, consider the following: Do you think that this fine is adequate?

Or, do you think that there should be some method for assuring - rather than limiting - the ability of these children, who were passengers on this bus, to recover their parents' expenditures on their medical care, and perhaps some fair compensation for their pain and suffering due to the gross negligence of this trucker and his trucking company? 
Perhaps you feel that all 22 of these children (including the one who died), as well as the school bus driver (who was also apparently injured while saving two of the children), should have to share in one lump sum of $250,000 (bearing in mind that the deceased child's funeral expenses would likely also have to come out of this same pot of money).

Simply put, if you think this trucking company needs to be sent a stronger message than a $54,000 fine to compel them to act safely, then guess what? You are - at least partialy - anti-tort reform.
Jonathan Cooper
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Non-Compete, Trade Secret and School Negligence Lawyer
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