Woods v. Union Pacific

by Heygood Orr and Pearson

Heygood, Orr & Pearson represented Curtis Woods in a personal injury case arising from an April 27, 2002 automobile versus 18 wheeler collision.  The case was filed in the 153rd District Court, Tarrant County, Texas, cause number 153-201473-03.  The case went to trial in August 2006 before the Honorable Ken Curry.  On August 23, 2006, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Mr. Woods.

At the time of the accident, Mr. Woods was an unbelted backseat passenger in a Chevrolet Beretta being driven by Crystal Lowder when the Chevrolet Beretta and a Union Pacific Railroad 18 wheeler, being driven by Donald Slovak, collided.  Initially, Ms. Lowder, who was entering the freeway from an entrance ramp, lost control of her vehicle.  Her vehicle traveled across all 3 lanes of the freeway and struck the concrete divide and then spun or rolled backwards across all 3 lanes again until it reached the third lane where the Union Pacific 18 wheeler hit the car on the driver’s side in the area of the backseat.  Curtis Woods was paralyzed from the waist down in the collision.

On behalf of Mr. Woods, Heygood, Orr & Pearson contended that both Crystal Lowder and the Union Pacific truck were negligent.  HO&P contended that Crystal Lowder was negligent for driving erratically and losing control of her vehicle.  They further contended that Union Pacific and their driver were negligent because the Union Pacific truck was following the vehicle in front of it too close and because it could have stopped short of the Lowder vehicle.

Union Pacific and Donald Slovak denied all responsibility.  They contended that Crystal Lowder entered the freeway up ahead of Mr. Slovak at a high rate of speed, driving erratically and, almost immediately upon entering the freeway, lost control of her vehicle causing this entire incident.  According to Mr. Slovak, upon seeing a sudden emergency up ahead of him, he moved his truck to the right hand lane (away from the direction Ms. Lowder was traveling) and began to slow down and bring his truck to a stop.  Mr. Slovak contended Ms. Lowder’s car bounced off the concrete median in an unexpected fashion and that there was nothing he could do.

Crystal Lowder contended that she was a recently licensed driver and was not driving erratically or speeding at the time of the collision.  Ms. Lowder asserted that her vehicle all of a sudden went out of control due to no fault of hers.  Ms. Lowder pointed to the fact that Mr. Woods said that he heard a popping noise consistent with a blowout just as the car was going out of control.  Ms. Lowder further argued that all the drivers whose cars were closer to Ms. Lowder’s vehicle than the Union Pacific truck acted in time to stop well behind her car as it rolled back across the traffic.  Ms. Lowder further argued that it was not the impact with the concrete wall that paralyzed Mr. Woods and that if the Union Pacific truck had been maintaining a proper following distance and had stopped like the rest of the traffic instead of choosing to go around the car in front of it, Mr. Woods would not have been injured.

The damages awarded included $250,000 for past physical pain and mental anguish; $320,000 future physical pain and mental anguish; $52,040 past lost wages; $610,406 future loss of earning capacity; $75,000 disfigurement in the past; $25,000 future disfigurement; $250,000 past physical impairment; $500,000 future physical impairment; $407,092 past medical expenses; $2,515,660 future medical and life care expenses.  The total verdict was approximately $5 million.

The Law Offices of Heygood, Orr & Pearson is a Texas civil trial firm specializing in business litigation and life altering personal injury and wrongful death litigation.  Should you wish to discuss Heygood, Orr & Pearson potentially representing you or your company in a civil litigation matter, please contact the firm at info@hop-law.com