Nov 2014

HPS Appellate Team Obtains Reversal of $20 Million Verdicts in Vehicle/Truck Collision Case

It took seven years and three separate appeals, but Hugh Griffin, assisted by Stevie Starnes, finally obtained a reversal of three wrongful death awards totaling in excess of $20 million, resulting from a semi-truck/car collision in Indiana.

HPS's Griffin and Starnes represented the shipper/distributor of the product being carried by the semi, who was sued on an agency theory for the alleged negligence of the truck driver.  Working with counsel for the driver/truck tractor owner, the defense team ultimately convinced the Illinois Appellate Court to order a new trial for all defendants on the ground that there was serious evidentiary error (admission of alleged speeding, fines and log book violations by the driver and trucking company on other occasions) and  instruction error (failure to give burden of proof instruction on agency claim and giving of presumption of due care instruction in favor of the vehicle driver who failed to yield the right of way to the truck).

The case took seven years on appeal because the appellate court originally ordered a new trial on grounds that a defense substitution of judge motion was erroneously denied, but the Supreme Court held that this error did not entitle all defendants to a new trial, and remanded the case back to the Appellate Court for the consideration of other asserted trial errors. The plaintiffs sought further review of the Appellate Court’s second reversal, but the Supreme court declined further review, and the case is now back in the Circuit Court of Cook County for a new trial.