Most of my posts to this blog concern negligence by truck drivers. That’s because bad driving decisions are a major cause of semi truck accidents, and I represent many Missouri families that are suing over a catastrophic accident involving a commercial truck. But sometimes, another driver in a car is responsible, at least partly, for triggering a trucking crash, and that could be the case in a crash that recently led to a DUI sentencing for St. Louis driver Patrick Mullen. Mullen, 26, admitted that he was intoxicated when he stopped his pickup truck in the middle of a highway, causing a second accident that killed St. Louis alderman Gregory Carter. Mullen was not charged with causing the death, but did plead guilty to DWI.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Carter was a long-time employee of UPS, whose truck he was driving, as well as an alderman for a northern ward of St. Louis. He and the other involved drivers were eastbound on Highway 370 when Mullen’s pickup hit a tractor-trailer. That crash was not serious, but Mullen stopped in the center lane to inspect the damage, rather than pulling over as the other driver did. A FedEx truck behind Mullen stopped to see if he needed help and advise him to pull over, and another tractor-trailer stopped behind that one. But Carter’s UPS truck crashed into the back of the stopped truck in front, causing fatal injuries.
Mullen’s DWI conviction will not be his first. He will avoid a six-month jail sentence if he keeps to the terms of his probation, which include not buying, possessing or consuming alcohol and installing an ignition interlock device on his truck. His attorney told the newspaper that prosecutors didn’t believe they could prove Mullen had committed involuntary manslaughter because his actions were not closely connected enough to the crash that killed Carter. A prosecutor said his office would have had to prove criminal recklessness. It was also a complication that Carter apparently didn’t stop in time even though the other two involved trucks were able to do so, which raised the possibility that he was distracted. Carter’s daughter has nonetheless filed a tractor-trailer accident lawsuit against Mullen as well as the trucking companies for the two other trucks involved.
It should be interesting to see how Ms. Carter’s wrongful death lawsuit progresses. The fact that prosecutors didn’t feel they had a strong enough case to charge Mullen could hurt the part of her case seeking to hold him responsible. However, there’s a higher standard in criminal cases—“beyond a reasonable doubt”—than there is in lawsuits. A sympathetic jury could assign some amount of fault to Mullen under Missouri’s comparative fault law, which allows juries to assign proportions of fault to each person involved in an injury. The proportion of fault he bears would determine how much of any financial verdict he would have to pay. This would also apply to the truckers and trucking companies involved in the crash, if they are found at fault. It will be interesting to see how the jury assigns fault in this complex case.
If you or someone in your family suffered a serious injury in a trucking accident caused by someone else’s bad decision, don’t wait to call Carey, Danis & Lowe for help. For a free, confidential consultation, call us toll-free at 1-877-678-3400 or send us an email today.
Similar blog posts:
FMCSA Poised to Make Rules on Holding Trucking Companies Responsible for Crashes
Missouri Commercial Driver’s Constitutional Challenge to DUI Revocation Fails – Bone v. Director of Revenue
Wyoming Supreme Court Upholds License Revocation for Trucker Found Drunk on Duty – Wyoming DOT v. Robbins