On Behalf of | Jun 12, 2024 | Semi Truck Accidents

Uber Freight loses its claim for Immunity

Paoli Law Firm Client Settles with Velox Transport Solutions, LLC, Julio Santos (driver for Velox), Almo Distributing, and Uber Freight

This case arose from a horrific big rig crash that occurred on Highway 2 in Flathead County, Montana in the early morning of January 21, 2022. Julio Santos was driving a semi-tractor trailer owned and operated by Velox Transport Solutions, LLC, which is headquartered in Miami, Florida. Mr. Santos was delivering a load to an address in Columbia Falls, MT. While driving on Highway 2 past Kalispell, he was notified of a change in the delivery address. Mr. Santos entered the new address into his GPS and realized he needed to turn around. Rather than drive to an intersection or another safe spot to do so, he decided to make an illegal U-turn across several lanes of traffic. Mr. Santos failed to observe, let alone yield to, any of the traffic around him and failed to see Michael Poston travelling in the same direction in the lane directly to the left of him. Mr. Santos turned in front of Mr. Poston, causing Mr. Poston to crash into the trailer as it was perpendicular across both lanes of traffic. Mr. Poston’s pickup truck became lodged underneath the semi-truck and had the roof sheared off. Not surprisingly, this caused severe and catastrophic skull fractures and brain trauma. Mr. Poston only survived because he was able to quickly lean over his passenger seat, and a nurse passing in a separate vehicle stopped to maintain Mr. Poston’s airway until emergency responders could arrive.

Not only was Mr. Poston severely injured in the crash, but he was pinned in his pickup truck under the trailer for over an hour while emergency responders attempted to extract him. He was eventually removed and rushed to Logan Health, where he required a bifrontal craniotomy along with several other extensive surgeries throughout his month-long stay there. He required in-patient therapy and rehabilitation for months after his release from the hospital, treatment which is still ongoing.

Mr. Poston filed a lawsuit against Velox Transport Solutions, LLC, the driver, Julio Santos, CES Hospitality, Uber Freight, and Almo Distributing. CES Hospitality contracted with Almo Distributing to ship the load Mr. Santos was carrying. Almo Distributing contracted with Uber Freight to handle (i.e., broker) the logistics of shipping the load. Uber Freight placed the shipment on its virtual “platform” for any of its users to bid on. Velox Transport Solutions, LLC ended up bidding, accepting the shipment, and assigned its driver, Julio Santos, to carry the shipment to Montana.

Velox Transport is a trucking company that hauls freight across the entire United States. As a commercial trucking company, they have a legal duty and responsibility to ensure that they employ safe and qualified drivers. Julio Santos was known to be an unsafe driver. Additionally, during the discovery phase in Mr. Poston’s lawsuit, it was found, shockingly but perhaps unsurprisingly, that Velox did not have an established safety program for its drivers. Worse, after the crash, Velox had no discussions with Santos regarding his reckless and unsafe driving that caused the horrific crash. There was no internal investigation or further training to ensure something as tragic as this crash would never happen again. Velox simply put Mr. Santos back out on the road with no additional training, counseling, or education about safe driving.

Almo Distributing is the largest independent distributor of appliances, consumer electronics, professional A/V equipment, drones, furniture, etc. As a distributor, they have a legal duty and are responsible for ensuring that they select safe freight-delivery companies. Almo has decided to utilize Uber Freight to contract the shipments they have. Despite this, Almo still has a responsibility to ensure that Uber Freight is hiring safe trucking companies to move its freight across the United States.

Uber Freight proudly proclaims on their website that you can book with Uber Freight knowing the carriers can be trusted, and they use all of their extensive resources to securely provide safe carriers to move shipments. However, when Mr. Poston’s Complaint was filed and served on Uber Freight, the company pivoted. Uber claimed it was simply a broker and was not responsible for ensuring the safety of the driver or carriers nor whether they adhered to safety rules and regulations. Simply put, Uber Freight did nothing to vet the drivers or carriers booking through its “platform.” After Mr. Poston’s severe and catastrophic injuries, Uber Freight did not follow-up with Velox to ensure they were employing safe drivers or whether they had made any changes in response to this tragic crash. They did not inquire as to what happened with their driver and did not block Velox or Santos from booking through its “platform” again. Their only concern was to ensure Almo was reimbursed for their payment in a greedy attempt to appease them so that they would continue to book with Uber. Uber Freight filed a motion to be dismissed from the lawsuit (more on this below). However, Federal Judge Donald Molloy of the District of Montana denied their motion, reasoning that Uber Freight was “within the chain of causation” leading up to the crash. Consequently, Uber Freight remained a defendant in the lawsuit.