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Wrongful Death Trial Ends With $35.25 Million Verdict

A trial that took place four years after a truck accident caused four wrongful deaths, has resulted in a jury award of $35.25 million to the family of one of the victims. Anita Gibbs was 55 when she and three family members were rear-ended by an 18-wheeler on an interstate highway in 2006. The four women were on their way to a family wedding anniversary celebration.

As their car stopped on the highway because of a traffic accident, George Albright, Jr., then 61, of Clarksville, Tennessee, slammed into the rear of the car with his big rig truck.

In 2008, Albright was tried in on four criminal counts of second-degree manslaughter. He was found not guilty.

At the wrongful death civil trial, however, lawyers argued that Albright was tired as he drove and that he falsified his trucking logs to indicate that he had gotten more rest than he actually had. The argument at the civil trial was that Albright’s employer, Michigan-based CenTra Trucking Co., was negligent in ignoring Albright’s driving record and his failure to adhere to established company policies.

The verdict went against CenTra Trucking.

The other family members killed in the Kansa City wreck were Beverly Garrett, 57, her mother, Beulah Hunter, 94, and Hunter’s sister, Elois Jeans, 81. A settlement was reached in the deaths of these three women in 2008, totalling $18 million.

The Gibbs wrongful death case was the last of the four to go to court. The jury awarded $5.25 million in compensatory damages and $30 million in punitive damages.

Friends of Gibbs who testified at the trial on her qualities as a person and as a teacher included U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Kansas City, former Kansas City School District Superintendent Bernard Taylor, and Shawn Edwards, a former student of Gibbs who is now a film critic for a local television channel.

Source: Kansas City Star “Jury awards $35 million to family of crash victim” 10/22/2010

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