MOUNT PLEASANT, Texas — A Texas jury on Monday awarded $730 million to the surviving children of a 73-year-old woman who was killed after a collision with an over-sized load on a rural highway.
According to court documents, Toni Combest was killed on Feb. 21, 2016, on the White Oak bridge in Titus County, Texas, by a nearly 200,000-pound big rig load that was being escorted by front and back pilot escort vehicles.
The Monday judgement was against 2A Pilot Cars, the employer of the front escort vehicle. Attempts to reach 2A Pilot Cars and their attorneys were unsuccessful.
Brent Goudarzi, who represented Combest’s family, said that “the lead pilot escort vehicle ran Mrs. Combest off of the roadway just as Mrs. Combest was rounding the blind curve that would take her onto the skinny bridge.”
“Upon entering the bridge, Mrs. Combest was faced with a tractor and load that was almost completely within her lane,” Goudarzi continued. “The driver of the tractor was able to swerve his vehicle out of her lane, but he was not able to remove the 16-foot-wide load from her path before the load struck her vehicle and caused a violent explosion of debris. The entire event was captured by the dash camera located in the rear escort vehicle.”
Goudarzi said the load, a top-secret piece of military equipment, was being transported under the authority of Landstar Ranger, Inc. According to publicly available information, Landstar Ranger, Inc. is the eighth largest trucking company in the nation.
Landstar Ranger, Inc. settled less than one week prior to jury selection for $50 million. S&M Pilot Service, the employer of the rear escort driver, settled for $1 million, also just prior to trial.
“This verdict marks the end of a several-year prosecution that exposed the extreme dangers associated with the over-sized load and escort vehicle industries,” Goudarzi said.
“These dangers have, for years, been ignored and disregarded for the sake of profits that rise into the billions of dollars. The witnesses in this case provided testimony concerning the industries’ conscious disregard of State and Federal safety standards and the best practices within the industry. This verdict will send a message to the over-sized load and escort industries that they will be held accountable when they place profits over safety in a manner that leads to catastrophic events like the one that took the life of Mrs. Toni Combest.”
The Trucker News Staff produces engaging content for not only TheTrucker.com, but also The Trucker Newspaper, which has been serving the trucking industry for more than 30 years. With a focus on drivers, the Trucker News Staff aims to provide relevant, objective content pertaining to the trucking segment of the transportation industry. The Trucker News Staff is based in Little Rock, Arkansas.