Trucking Co. Sued For Leaking Fuel on Highway; Truck Was 40 Miles Away At Time of Accident


The parents of Loni Prater brought a wrongful death lawsuit against Cynthia Sexton, James Patton and Potter Transport, Inc.

Prater, 18, died hours after an automobile accident on Nov. 23, 2000. She was slowing her vehicle on a hill in the rain on Highway 65 in Dallas County near Urbana when she was struck from behind by Sexton’s vehicle. The collision forced Prater over the centerline, where she was hit by another vehicle.

The Potter Transport truck was 40 miles away from the accident site at the time of the collision. The plaintiffs claimed diesel fuel had dripped onto the highway from a leaking fuel tank on the tractor-trailer truck, which was driven by Patton. They said the fuel on the highway impaired Sexton’s ability to avoid hitting Prater.

They also claimed Patton violated multiple Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations which caused or contributed to the accident. Thirteen minutes after the accident the truck stopped on the side of the road, disabled with a leaking fuel tank.

The defense presented evidence including testimony from a highway patrolman that there was no diesel fuel on the highway in the area of the accident. The defendants also argued that the fuel leak was so slight that only a few drops would have fallen on the area of the accident, and it would have been hard for the driver to detect.

Sexton’s insurance company paid and the carrier for Patton and Potter Transport’s insurance company paid.

Type of Action: Automobile accident

Type of Injuries: Death

Court/Case Number/Date: Dallas County Circuit Court/CV301-063CC/ June 2002

Caption: Prater v. Sexton, et al.

Judge, Jury or ADR: Jury

Name of Judge: John W. Sims

Verdict or Settlement: settlement

Allocation of Fault: N/A

Last Offer: N/A

Last Demand: N/A

Attorneys for Plaintiff: Dan Ramsdell and Ken Willoughby, The Ramsdell Law Firm, Springfield; James Moore, Lebanon

Insurance Carrier: Allied Insurance; Farmers Insurance

Plaintiff's Experts: Roger Allen, Houston, Texas (commercial motor vehicle safety); Kristy Gibson, Strafford (nurse); Charles Vaughan, Springfield (accident reconstructionist)

Defendant's Experts: N/A

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