Judge dismisses suit over trucker’s 2017 death on Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel

Truck in Water
Numerous vehicles, including commercial trucks, have fallen off the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel since it opened in 1963. This Dec. 29, 2020, file photo shows a box truck floating in the water after falling off the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. The U.S. Coast Guard called off the search for the driver Dec. 31. (Jonathon Gruenke/The Daily Press via AP)

EASTVILLE, Va. — A Virginia judge has dismissed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit filed by the widow of a trucker whose tractor-trailer plunged over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel four years ago.

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Billie Jo Chen, whose husband, Joseph, died in February 2017 shortly after his 18-wheeler plummeted into the waters, alleged the bridge-tunnel operators shouldn’t have allowed him to cross the 17.6-mile span at the time because winds were too strong. After presiding over a December trial in Northampton County, Judge Leslie Lilley ruled on Friday, Feb. 26, that the bridge-tunnel, as a political subdivision of Virginia, is protected by sovereign immunity, The Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk reported.

Douglas Desjardins, an attorney for the widow, said an appeal is likely.

Joseph Chen, 47, of Greenville, North Carolina, was an experienced trucker on the homebound leg of his regular delivery run for a seafood company when he died.

The lawsuit, which sought $6 million in damages, alleged the bridge-tunnel violated its wind policy by letting Chen cross with a nearly empty trailer when gusts as high as 50 mph were recorded. The judge ruled that the bridge-tunnel correctly applied its wind policy, but noted the trial raised “obvious concern” about the policy’s formation, the newspaper reported. Lilley concluded wind was the main cause of the accident.

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