As a Missouri semi truck accident attorney, I was not surprised to read that the driver in a trucking crash that killed two is headed for trial. Lei Sun, the truck driver accused of plowing into two stopped cars at an intersection in Republic, Miss., is charged with first-degree involuntary manslaughter in the March 27 deaths of Lawrence “Mike” Coan and Corey Gresham. Sun is accused of going over his hours of service for the week, speeding and failing to brake in the moments before he hit the two men’s separate cars, pushing them into a stopped 18-wheeler in front of them. Gresham’s wife has already filed a lawsuit against Sun, of California, and his trucking company, alleging their negligence caused her husband’s death. Sun’s attorney argued at a recent hearing that the crash was a tragic accident, not a crime.
Investigators with the Missouri State Highway Patrol believe Sun was violating several trucking and traffic regulations on the day of the crash. The written logbook all truck drivers must keep says Sun was within the limit of number of hours drivers can drive in a week, but the Highway Patrol said toll and fuel receipts show that Sun was lying in his logbook and had exceeded his 70 hours of work that week. Investigators also believe he was driving 10 to 20 mph above the posted speed limit. Perhaps most damningly, the truck’s on-board computer shows that Sun didn’t hit the brakes before running into the three stopped vehicles at the intersection. Indeed, the Springfield News-Leader reported, Sun told an investigator at the scene that he didn’t stop because he thought the semi in front of him was about to go through the intersection—suggesting that Sun failed to notice the victims’ vehicles.
At the hearing, a defense attorney for Sun argued that the charges should be dropped or at least downgraded to second-degree involuntary manslaughter. That charge requires prosecutors to meet a lower legal standard to prove the crime: “criminal negligence,” rather than “reckless disregard.” The charge also carries substantially less maximum time in prison: eight years, rather than 14. The judge ultimately agreed with prosecutors that first-degree involuntary manslaughter better fit the circumstances. Because there are two charges, Sun could serve up to 28 years if convicted of both. The criminal case is also likely to damage Sun’s immigration case, which he is appealing through the separate immigration courts.
As a St. Louis tractor-trailer accident lawyer, I’d like to add that the role of the trucking company in this crash should not be overlooked. According to the lawsuit filed by Mary “Meg” Gresham, truck owner Daniel Orchard Transportation has a history of regulatory problems. Its 13 drivers have been cited in the past two years for having defective trucking equipment, speeding, driving over their daily limit of hours and keeping a false logbook, as Sun did. The trucking company itself was cited for failing to maintain records of driver qualification. In addition, the truck Sun was driving was found at the scene to have inadequate brakes and tires. All of this means that the trucking company may be directly liable for negligence, in addition to its liability for negligently hiring Sun. Our southern Illinois big rig accident attorneys help families make this kind of claim, which can provide them with the money they need to replace a lost income, pay medical bills and more.
If your family suffered a devastating injury because of someone else’s negligence, don’t wait to call Carey, Danis & Lowe for a free consultation. You can reach us through our website or at 1-877-678-3400.
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