This case arises from the horribly tragic double fatality collision caused by FedEx Ground Package System, Inc. (“FedEx Ground”) resulting in the death of two young men. The wreck occurred on Interstate 90 East at mile marker 21 on December 27, 2013 at approximately 10:30 p.m. near DeBorgia in Mineral County, Montana. David Paoli of Paoli Law Firm and co-counsel Lance Jasper represented the estate and the family of 28 year-old Eric Larson, who eventually succumbed to his injuries caused by the crash.
The driver of the FedEx Ground rig, Kevin McGhee, was driving on behalf of GNB Trucking, a Russian owned and operated company out of Salt Lake City, Utah. GNB provides services solely to FedEx Ground under its fraudulent independent contractor model wherein contractors own the semi-tractor and operate under FedEx Ground’s DOT operating authority pulling FedEx Ground trailers. The owners and operators of GNB are Russian.
Eric was traveling from Coeur D’ Alene, Idaho to return to his home in Missoula after spending Christmas with his family. As he was driving on Interstate 90 near DeBorgia, he stopped to render aid to a couple who had slid off the road and into the median. Eric, acting as a Good Samaritan, parked his truck safely off the road and got out to make sure the couple was okay. After ensuring the distressed motorists were not injured and were safe, he gave the woman his cell phone so she was able to report their non-injury slide-off.
Road conditions were icy, it was dark out, and the temperature was below freezing. Despite this, McGhee, who was operating a FedEx Ground semi-tractor hauling two fully loaded trailers in excess of the posted 65 mph speed limit, full throttle, and with his engine brake (“Jake Brake”) on as he approached the location of Eric’s truck and the three individuals standing off the road in the median. McGhee’s co-driver in the FedEx rig, Bambi Fowler, was in the sleeper birth with her dog.
As McGhee recklessly sped down I-90, he recognized warning lights from Eric’s pickup truck ahead. He released the accelerator, activating the Jake Brake, which is unsafe and forbidden in slippery conditions. He then reaccelerated, presumably to “pass right through” the emergency situation in the median ahead. He lost control of his semi tractor-trailer combination and jack-knifed, crashing into Eric’s pickup, completely demolishing it. McGhee ran down both men who were running for their lives. McGhee came to rest with both young men under the FedEx trailers. In his deposition, McGhee admitted that it was reckless to reaccelerate after he recognized the situation ahead. He also admitted that during the crash sequence he purposefully maneuvered his vehicle by steering towards Eric’s pickup truck, expecting there to be people in or around the pickup truck. After the collision, McGhee never got out of his tractor – instead of assisting the surviving woman in rendering aid to the young men who were alive but trapped under the FedEx Ground trailers, he sat in his tractor, called his employer and worked on completing his false log books.
FedEx Ground repeatedly claimed this was an “unforeseen black ice accident.” However, in depositions, it was admitted by FedEx representatives that ice is foreseeable in the wintertime, at night, in the mountains of Montana. McGhee clearly admitted:
Q.· · Well — and, Mr. McGhee, you understand that in the mountains of Montana in the wintertime,·ice is foreseeable, isn’t it?
A.· · Correct.
Hard-fought discovery required by FedEx’s abusive discovery hindering techniques revealed many, many facts damaging to all Defendants. McGhee admitted he was tired and contemplated taking a nap right before this crash, but was pushing to get more miles so he could have “a better month” monetarily. FedEx also faced a series of serious spoliation motions. Among the several documents FedEx and GNB destroyed prior to or during litigation were a great majority of McGhee’s log books (months of them) and almost all of his co-driver’s log books. However, the minimal amount of McGhee’s log books that were produced revealed multiple and repeated hours-of-service violations and false logs, which McGhee admitted to in his deposition.
Eric’s family settled the traumatizing case.