Houston, Tex. (January 25, 2024) - In recent years, nuclear verdicts have become increasingly commonplace in Dallas County, Texas – both in District courts, and now, significantly, also in the County Courts at Law.

These previously "smaller courts" have concurrent jurisdiction without regard to the amount in controversy, and they have become fertile ground for plaintiff lawyers seeking large verdicts. In a recent example of this phenomenon, on December 18, 2023, a jury in Lopez v. All Points 360 found negligence against a trucking company and awarded a mother and her children $105 million in damages, $63 million of which was punitive, for an accident that took the life of her husband. (Lopez v. All Points 360, Cause No. CC-18-07197-A, in the County Court at Law No. 1 of Dallas County).

The litigation is the result of a 2018 accident involving Gustavo Lopez, Sr., in which he was struck from behind by a Hino Box Truck in Johnson County, Texas. The suit alleges the driver, Timmie Turner, was traveling at an excessive speed in rainy conditions. Lopez died from his injuries at the scene. His wife, Laura Lopez, later filed suit on behalf of his estate and his minor children. It was discovered during the course of the litigation that Turner was not licensed or trained and had no background checks completed prior to operating the truck.

In the suit, the plaintiff named Mr. Turner (the driver), his employer Sinnie Mae Trucking, as well as Amazon entities. Also named was All Points 360, which had a broker-carrier agreement in place with Amazon, and J.W. Logistics, which in turn had a broker-carrier agreement in place with All Points 360. Turner was operating the truck as part of Amazon's Middle Mile Delivery Service Partner Program. The truck involved in the incident was titled to Sinnie Mae Trucking and was provided to Turner by All Points 360.

The jury found no liability against the Amazon defendants, and J.W. Logistics was dismissed prior to trial, leaving Sinnie Mae and All Points 360 splitting responsibility for the verdict between them.

For transportation clients doing business in Texas, this case should serve as a reminder of the importance of following FMCSA guidelines strictly to avoid being placed in the line of fire of an angry jury. Texas juries, particularly in urban areas surrounding major cities, are trending towards higher verdicts against large corporate entities, which they increasingly feel have the resources to pay. Although Amazon was ultimately not held liable in this case, one has to wonder if the name recognition contributed to the larger award against the companies providing delivery services for Amazon.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.