The trucking company whose driver parked his rig alongside a freeway bears some responsibility for the death of a man who lost control of his pickup and crashed into the big-rig truck, the California Supreme Court has ruled in Cabral vs. Ralphs, S178799.
The unanimous decision which came down Monday reinstated a San Bernardino County jury’s verdict that found Ralphs Grocery Co was 10 percent at fault for a crash on the shoulder of Interstate 10 that killed Adelelmo Cabral. That 10% share was calculated to be $475,000 in a lawsuit that was filed by Mr. Cabral’s widow.
Cabral, was driving his pickup truck home from from his job as a construction worker in February 2004, when he suddenly lost control of his vehicle, swerved through traffic, veered onto the dirt shoulder to the right of the freeway and slammed into the rear of a Ralphs tractor-trailer, parked on the shoulder of I10, at 70 to 80 mph, the court said.
Cabral who had not been drinking, is believed to have either fallen asleep at the wheel or suffered a serious health problem, this according to medical personnel who testified during the trial.
The area where the big-rig truck was parked was posted for emergency parking only, yet the driver of the big-rig, Hen Horn, regularly parked there to have a snack, according to court documents.
A state appeals court overturned the verdict that found Ralphs partially at fault, saying the company had no legal obligation to protect motorists from a negligently parked truck because a roadside accident was no more than a remote possibility.
But the California Supreme Court said a accident with involving a vehicle parked next to a freeway is “clearly foreseeable,” and the vehicle owner’s degree of responsibility is a question for the jury to decide.
Jeffrey Ehrlich, attorney for Maria Cabral, said the ruling should send a signal to judges in California to let juries decide questions of negligence and responsibility. But Ralphs’ lawyer, Lillie Hsu, said the court’s action was alarming.
“After this decision, there’s no safe place to park in California,” she said. “No matter where you park, if someone hits you, you can be hauled into court and a jury can decide whether you had a good enough reason to park there.”
If you or someone you know has been injured in a big-rig truck accident contact the the personal injury lawyers at the Alexander Law Group, LLP by email or call 888.777.1776. All calls free and confidential.