Randall Bassett delivers the opening statement for UPS, accused of responsibility for the late-night collision that killed James Hope Jr.
Update: The parties settled the case during trial for an undisclosed sum.
Jacksonville, FL—Attorneys debated whether a UPS tractor-trailer driver caused the late night collision that killed two men, as trial opened Thursday against the delivery service giant. Hope v. UPS, 2011-CA-005747.
James Hope Jr., 65, was killed when a UPS tractor-trailer driven by Daniel Irish struck and flipped the dump truck in which Hope was a passenger in January 2011. The crash also killed the dump truck’s driver, Norman White.
Hope’s children claim Irish was dangerously inattentive and failed to see the dump truck in time to avoid the fatal crash on Florida's State Road 441 north of Ocala.
During Thursday’s opening statements Searcy Denney’s Cameron Kennedy told jurors evidence would show Irish was tired, inattentive, and had “floored” the gas pedal of his tandem tractor trailer just before the accident occurred. “He was driving the UPS tractor trailer as fast as it could go,” Kennedy said, noting the truck’s black box recorder showed it traveling more than 60 miles per hour just before the crash.
Kennedy told jurors the dump truck was outfitted with reflective tape that rendered it visible from 300 yards away and traveling about 40 miles per hour when Irish’s tractor trailer slammed into it from behind. “The UPS driver did absolutely nothing to avoid crashing into the vehicle in front of him until a split second, within 40 feet of the dump truck, when he took his foot off the accelerator that was floored and jerked the wheel to the left,” Kennedy said.
But the defense contends the dump truck lacked required safety and visibility equipment and Irish couldn’t see the truck in time to avoid the collision. During Thursday’s openings, King & Spalding’s Randall Basset told jurors the dump truck’s rear lights were broken or missing and its reflective tape was covered in grime. “If the dump truck couldn’t be seen and recognized, then how can UPS be responsible for the actions of the dump truck creating that hazard and causing this accident,” Bassett said, calling the dump truck a roadway “hazard.”
Bassett also contended the truck was stopped in the middle of the road when the collision occurred, and did not have required safety flares or reflective road triangles around the vehicle to warn oncoming traffic. “If you’re going to stop, and your vehicle is stopped on the roadway, you need to make sure it’s going to be seen by others coming,” Bassett said.
Neither of the parties’ attorneys could immediately be reached for comment.
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Yolanda Hope Lingo, as Representative of the Estate of James Hope Jr., is represented by Searcy Denney’s Cameron Kennedy and Carter Scott, Coker Schickel’s Howard Coker and Daniel Iracki, and Rufus Pennington.
UPS is represented by King & Spalding’s Randall Bassett and Bradley Pratt.