Update: Following an emergency motion for trial continuance, the proceeding was declared a mistrial.
Decatur, GA— Attorneys Tuesday delivered competing narratives as to what caused a deadly, multi-crash incident involving a big rig, as trial opened against a trucking company and others. Freeman, et al. v. Ace American Insurance Co., et al., 17A62825.
Shortly after 4:30 a.m. on April 23, 2016, Steven Haynes was driving a Ford SUV, with Taliah Freeman as a passenger, north along Georgia’s I-85 when his vehicle and a tractor-trailer, driven by C&T Durham Trucking Company’s Randell Trice, collided. The crash, in Gwinnett County, north of Atlanta, left the SUV disabled broadside on the highway with its lights off. Haynes and Freeman left the vehicle and were in the roadway when their SUV was then hit by a minivan driven by Joaquin Nomura. That collision killed Freeman, 32, and injured Haynes’ leg.
With parties disputing the details of the incident, including which vehicle struck the other in the initial collision, the drivers' testimony and accident reconstruction evidence promise to play central roles in the estimated five-day trial.
On Tuesday, Cook Law Group’s Matthew Cook, representing Freeman’s family, previewed evidence he said would show the tractor-trailer struck the rear of the SUV as the big rig changed lanes, with trucker Trice failing to check for traffic. Cook added that the trucker’s testimony to the contrary would be undercut by accident reconstruction evidence, including speed data and impact studies.
“We think the [trucking defense has] problems because their version of events contradicts the physical evidence,” Cook said. “They base their defense on the weakest physical evidence. Confused witness statements.”
Barker Law Group’s Jacques Barker, representing Haynes, agreed with Cook, and added that Haynes suffered serious physical and emotional fallout from the crash. “Now obviously Mr. Trice did not intend to cause this wreck, but I intentionally use the word “wreck,” because the evidence will show that Steven’s life was wrecked,” Barker said.
However, C&T Durham maintains that statements from both Haynes and Trice support its contention that Haynes struck the tractor-trailer. On Tuesday, Marc Bardack, of Freeman, Mathis & Gary, told jurors that Haynes repeatedly stated after the crash that another, unidentified vehicle crossed into his path, forcing him into the tractor-trailer’s lane.
“Meanwhile, you’re going to hear Randell Trice, in every statement that he gave, he’s unequivocal that he was in his lane and that Haynes came into [Trice’s] lane, and hit him,” Bardack said.
For her part, Nomura’s attorney, Henrietta Brown, of Gardner Trial Attorneys, told jurors that Nomura was unable to avoid hitting the SUV. She added that whoever caused the first collision was at fault in the incident.
“Mr. Nomura was placed in an emergency. Had the first collision not occurred… there wouldn’t have been a second collision,” Brown said.
Due to an unexpected issue, trial is in recess for the remainder of the week and is scheduled to resume Monday August 28. CVN is streaming proceedings live and on demand, and will provide updates on its news page.
Email Arlin Crisco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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