Case Study: $1B Auto Liability Loss
To avoid nuclear verdicts similar to the one resulting from this case, businesses should follow these risk mitigation tactics: Implement Distracted Driving Policies and Training, Standard Hiring Practices, Ensure Compliance and adequate Insurance Coverage.
Nuclear verdicts refer to exceptionally high jury awards—generally, those exceeding $10 million. Such verdicts have become increasingly common
in the past decade. In fact, the National Law Journal reported the average jury award among the top 100 U.S. verdicts more than tripled
between 2015 and 2019, skyrocketing from $64 million to $214 million.
In August 2021, after five days of testimony and four hours of deliberation, a Nassau County jury awarded $100 million to the victim’s parents for
pain and suffering related to their loss as well as $900 million in punitive damages against AJD Business Services—contributing to a total verdict
of $1 billion. These damages substantially exceeded AJD Business Services’ insurance policy limit of $1 million.
In September 2017, an 18-year-old college student at the University of North Florida was killed in a motor vehicle crash while driving on
Interstate 95. When the crash occurred, the victim had been held up in standstill traffic for more than an hour. This traffic buildup resulted
from a truck driver employed by AJD Business Services getting distracted by his phone and running into another vehicle, subsequently flipping
his truck and igniting a fire. Further investigation revealed the truck driver lacked the necessary licensing to operate a commercial vehicle and
had been involved in multiple other crashes in the past—information AJD Business Services was unaware of because the company failed to
conduct a background check before hiring him.
While stopped in traffic due to the accident, the victim was fatally struck by another truck driver employed by Kahkashan Carrier Inc. The
truck driver had the vehicle’s cruise control set to 70 mph and didn’t brake until just before ramming into the victim. Further investigation
revealed the truck driver was on his 25th hour behind the wheel when the crash occurred, significantly surpassing the maximum driving time
permitted under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) hours-of-service (HOS) rules. The truck driver also couldn’t read English, preventing him from understanding electronic warning signage in the miles leading to the traffic congestion.
In the aftermath of the fatal crash, the victim’s parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit against AJD Business Services and Kahkashan Carrier Inc. for their respective roles in the incident. In August 2021, after five days of testimony and four hours of deliberation, a Nassau County jury awarded
$100 million to the victim’s parents for pain and suffering related to their loss as well as $9