With the increase in hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) gas well sites around the country, many are touting the economic boost the industry is forecasted to provide. More well sites mean more jobs. However, it also means an increase in the amount of semis and other large commercial vehicles. The increased traffic has caused concern throughout many communities, and for good reason: Fracking related trucking accidents are on the rise.
A New Mexico jury has awarded $58.5 million in damages, the largest in state history, to the family of Kevin Udy who was killed three years ago when he was struck by a tanker trailer hauling fracking materials. The truck driver, Monte Lyons, “cut right out in front of [Udy]” according to Bill Robins, lead counsel for the victim’s estate.
At trial, evidence established that driver had been inadequately trained, was likely fatigued, and that the company defendants repeatedly violated federal and state regulations. The jury found the defendants liable for $11.5 million in actual damages and $47 million in punitive damages.
The jury released a statement after rendering the verdict:
“Our hope is that our judgment will clearly communicate that we expect a much higher standard of safety and training in the trucking industry. To the family, we understand that there is no way to put a monetary value on a human life.”
According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, Robins said they jury “sent a clear message to the trucking industry, and the oil and gas industry in particular, that those companies who choose not to follow safety rules, and who place profits over human life, will be held accountable for the harm they cause.”
Similar suits are cropping up across the nation as the number of fracking related accidents soars. In 2011, the Weeling Intelligencer reported 7 fracking related truck accidents in 12 days.