A Mecklenburg County jury has declined to hold a truck driver and his employer liable for a crash that led to the death of a 68-year-old woman.
David Estrada was driving a box truck for Standout Enterprises Inc. on Interstate 85 in Charlotte at about 9 p.m. in November 2014, when he encountered a vehicle stopped in the main travel portion of the highway.
Estrada testified that he never saw any lights illuminated on the vehicle and didn’t have time to avoid the crash. But physical evidence suggested that at least one light, a tail light, might have been lit, according to an attorney for Estrada and Standout Enterprises, John Jeffries of McAngus Goudelock & Courie in Charlotte.
Still, he said a forensic engineering expert testified that the crash was virtually unavoidable given that Estrada was travelling about 50 mph at night and was only able to see the stopped vehicle when it was about four or five car lengths away.
The other driver, Elaine Connolly of Waxhaw, never regained consciousness after the crash and died from her injuries eight days later. Why she was stopped in the road remains a mystery.
During the trial, attorneys for Connolly’s estate argued that Standout was negligent in hiring Estrada because he received two tickets for driving without a license when he was a teenager. He also got two speeding tickets and was involved in an accident — but he was not found at fault — in the year before he began working for Standout, according to Jeffries. He worked on the case with another attorney at his firm, Lucy Anderson.
An attorney for Connolly’s estate, Bill Bystrynski of Edwards Kirby in Raleigh, declined to discuss the case.
The trial spanned nine days and the jury deliberated for about 40 minutes before reaching a verdict for Estrada and Standout. Connolly’s attorneys had demanded $5 million prior to trial, and the defense had countered with a $100,000 settlement offer, according to Jeffries and Anderson.
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VERDICT REPORT – MOTOR VEHICLE NEGLIGENCE
Amount: Defense verdict
Injuries alleged: Wrongful death
Case name: William B. Connolly, Administrator of the Estate of Elaine R. Connolly vs. David J. Estrada and Standout Enterprises, Inc.
Court: Mecklenburg County Superior Court
Case number: 16-CVS-2099
Judge: Robert Ervin
Date of verdict: Oct. 12
Most helpful expert: Timothy Cheek, forensic engineer in Charlotte
Attorneys for plaintiff: David Kirby and Bill Bystrynski of Edwards Kirby in Charlotte
Attorneys for defendants: John Jeffries and Lucy Anderson of McAngus, Goudelock & Courie in Charlotte