A jury awarded a survivor of a chain-reaction crash that killed five Georgia Southern University nursing students $15 million after about four hours of deliberation, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Megan Richards, a former Georgia Southern nursing student who was injured in the crash that killed five of her friends, filed suit against trucking company Total Transportation of Mississippi and its parent company, U.S. Express, after one of its truck drivers failed to brake and collided with several cars sitting in traffic.
Righting Injustice reported the crash occurred at 5:45 a.m. April 22, 2015, on Interstate 16 near Savannah, Georgia, where the nursing students were on their way to their last day of clinical rotations at St. Joseph’s Hospital. Truck driver John Wayne Johnson failed to brake for traffic while traveling at 70 mph. His truck smashed into the Ford Escape and flipped over the Toyota Corolla in which the students were traveling.
Authorities identified the deceased students as Caitlyn Baggett, 21, of Millen; Morgan Bass, 20, of Leesburg; Emily Clark, 20, of Powder Springs; Abbie DeLoach, 21, of Savannah; and Catherine (McKay) Pittman, 21, of Alpharetta.
Johnson pleaded guilty to five counts of first-degree vehicular homicide along with additional charges last July and was sentenced to five years in prison followed by five years of probation, according to the Journal-Constitution. The trucking company settled with the families of the deceased and another survivor last April.
Bob Cheeley, Richard’s lawyer, initially wanted at least $25 million, but the trucking company’s attorney David Dial argued for a “fair amount,” saying that payment for medical expenses would not be disputed, the news source reported.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) records showed that Total Transportation’s driver safety record was worse than 90 percent of trucking companies in its class at the time of the crash, according to Righting Injustice.
Total Transportation’s safety record contained 266 unsafe violations over a two-year period, including 107 for speeding, 37 for improper lane changes, and 45 for failing to obey a “traffic control device.” The trucking company also was involved in 85 crashes, causing 27 injuries. However, none of those crashes were fatal until the one that injured Richards and killed several of her friends.
“Not every day is the worst day of my life, but a lot of days are bad,” Richards said in court, “but it’s the good days that make it worth it.”