Court lays into trucker for laying on train horn, causing hearing loss

Trucking news and briefs for Friday, May 3, 2024:

Trucker on the hook for nearly $2M in hearing-loss lawsuit

A truck driver was ordered to pay out nearly $2 million after a court found him to be negligent in blowing his custom horn and damaging another man’s hearing.

According to the Mississippi Jury Verdict Reporter, truck driver Jerry Garland, an independent contractor, was working at a job site where asphalt was being laid on May 4, 2020. Robert Kelly, a commercial paver, was also working the job site for his employer, Adcamp.

The report stated that Garland came upon Kelly and his work and believed Kelly was blocking his path to exit the job site. Kelly, however, maintained there was enough space for Garland and other traffic to exit.

Garland laid on his custom train horn, reportedly a three-tubed trumpet manufactured by United Pacific, for approximately 10 seconds. “Kelly immediately had a sudden intense pain in his ears as well as drainage,” the report noted. Kelly began treatment the following day for ear pain and hearing loss, his hearing loss continued to worsen, “and he now suffers a serious and permanent hearing loss.”

Additionally, in an unrelated event, Kelly suffered a brain tumor that, after surgery, left him blind. The combination of the two events left him without two senses and likely requiring attendant care for the rest of his life. As a result, Kelly sought additional damages from Garland because the combination of the two injuries required more attendant care than if he had just had the brain tumor and resulting blindness.

In the lawsuit, Kelly alleged negligence by Garland for blowing the horn. An expert witness doctor testified that even one second of exposure to the horn, which reportedly emits a 145-decibel sound, would be enough to cause injury.

Garland’s defense team argued that he was not negligent. An expert witness doctor testified on his behalf as well, noting Kelly’s hearing loss was not due to the horn incident, but rather 27 years of working in heavy construction.

Ultimately, the jury found that negligence by Garland had proximately caused injury to Kelly, who was awarded $6,483 for medical care, plus $66,794 for future care; $4,320 for lost wages, plus $150,000 for future lost wages; $60,000 for loss of household services; and $1.5 million for pain and suffering. The total verdict was $1,787,597.

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Mississippi tort law, however, caps non-economic damages at $1 million, so the verdict will likely be reduced in the final judgement.

[Related: Another reason insurance costs are rising -- 'claims' in no-fault accidents with litigation threat]

Hydrogen fuel cell-electric trucks deployed at Port of Oakland

In a dedication event at the FirstElement Hydrogen Fueling station in West Oakland on Thursday, the Center for Transportation and the Environment (CTE) celebrated the official launch of NorCAL ZERO, a new project bringing zero-emission freight transportation to the Bay Area and Central Valley.

The project is a $53 million collaborative effort to deploy 30 units of Hyundai Motor Company's Class 8 XCIENT Fuel Cell electric trucks.

“Each diesel truck we replace with hydrogen helps clean the air -- which has tremendous public health benefits,” said Tyson Eckerle, Senior Advisor for Clean Infrastructure & Mobility at the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development. “This project is a true trailblazer on so many levels, and a head start on the future we plan to build through the Alliance for Renewable Clean Hydrogen Energy Systems (ARCHES) federal hydrogen hub.”

The project is funded in part with $11.98 million from CARB’s California Climate Investments Program, $9.89 million from the CEC’s Clean Transportation Program, $3.64 million from Alameda CTC’s Clean Freight Program, $3.36 million from BAAQMD, and $24 million from project partners. 

Hyundai Motor Company designed and manufactured the vehicles, which are operated by G.E.T. Freight, a truck-based freight transport business of Glovis America, hauling containers from the Port of Oakland, and cars from the Port of Richmond. 

The trucks refuel at the recently opened high-capacity and high-throughput liquid hydrogen fueling station built and operated by FirstElement Fuel. The hydrogen station is the largest in the world and has been designed to support up to 200 trucks and back-to-back refueling, CTE said in a press release.

Papé Group maintains the trucks at its San Leandro facility, where technicians receive in-depth training from Hyundai on how to service the trucks. With engineering and design support from the Fiedler Group, Papé Group also upgraded its maintenance facility with hydrogen detection and ventilation equipment to safely service the trucks. Additionally, the University of California Berkeley and the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project are assisting with data collection, community outreach efforts, and communication.

[Related: With CARB ZEV deadlines looming, port dray haulers slowly turn toward electric trucks]

St. Christopher hosting virtual 5K to raise funds

The St. Christopher Truckers Relief Fund (SCF) is hosting its inaugural Heart & Sole Virtual 5K, which will help raise awareness and funds for over-the-road truck drivers who are out of work due to an illness or injury.

The concept is simple: individuals or groups can participate by registering online and then run, walk, or jog 5 kilometers (3.1 miles) anytime between May 20-26.

Participants are encouraged to share photos and the donation page on social media using the hashtag #SCFHeartandSole to raise awareness for the organization and its mission.

Registration for individuals is $20. SCF encourages individuals to make a team and challenge others. Event sponsorships are available companies for $1,000. All proceeds and donations will go directly to the St. Christopher Fund. Participants can also order a commemorative t-shirt available in multiple colors. 

“Our inaugural Heart & Sole Virtual 5K is a fun and simple way for anyone and everyone to participate and support our mission,” said Lindsey Bryan, Health and Wellness Manager at St. Christopher Fund. “We hope to not only raise funds to support drivers in need, but also promote the importance of proactive health and wellness in the trucking industry.”  

The SCF a nationwide nonprofit that provides short-term relief to Class A OTR drivers suffering from an illness or injury that took them out of work within the last year. The SCF also provides several free preventative health and wellness programs for OTR drivers in an effort to keep them on the road, including tobacco cessation, diabetes prevention, chronic disease management, at-home cancer screenings, and vaccine vouchers.

[Related: Of personal bests, the St. Christopher fund, and truckin', writin', and runnin']