Lawsuit stemming from multi-vehicle crash moved to federal court

By Jon Campisi | Sep 7, 2011

A civil suit that stemmed from a multi-vehicle accident in western Pennsylvania last winter - originally filed in state court - has been removed to federal court in Philadelphia since the amount in question exceeds the arbitrational limits at the local level.

The lawsuit on behalf of Jerry and Delilah Bowser of Mesick, Mich., and James and Amy Samsel of Frenchville, Pa. was transferred from Philadelphia’s Common Pleas Court to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania on Sept. 2.

The reasons given were twofold; the defendants are from out of state and the amount in controversy is closer to $75,000, more than the $50,000 limit at common pleas court.

The original action, which was filed earlier this summer, accuses Western Express, Inc., Guffie Swink, IV, Watsontown Trucking Company, James A. Benge and Enver Becirevic of negligence for causing a vehicle accident that subsequently left multiple parties injured and in need of medical attention.

According to the original complaint, which was attached to the Notice of Removal, defendant Swink, who worked for defendant Western Express, was driving a company tractor-trailer on Feb. 10, 2010 along Interstate 80 in Clearfield, County, Pa. at about 9:30 a.m. when he suddenly lost control of the vehicle due to snowy and icy road conditions.

Swink was hauling about 8,000 pounds of material destined for delivery to a Connecticut Home Depot at the time of the accident.

The driver was running late, since the load was actually supposed to arrive at the New England store at 8 a.m. that same morning, the lawsuit states.

At the time of the accident, there was poor visibility due to blizzard-like conditions, the lawsuit states, a revelation that led Swink to contact dispatchers about possibly postponing his trip. But after receiving no response on a postponement, Swink carried out his delivery as usual.

At the time of the chain collision, plaintiffs Jerry Bowser and James Samsel were both traveling behind Swink’s tractor-trailer in the same direction of travel, eastbound on I-80.

“Upon information and belief, at the aforesaid time and place, Defendant Swink negligently and recklessly lost control of the tractor-trailer owned by Defendant Western Express, Inc. causing the truck to jackknife across Interstate-80 and block both eastbound lanes of traffic,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit claims Swink was driving at an “excessive rate of speed given the weather conditions,” and blames the fast driving on orders to get his delivery to the New England Home Depot on time.

Meanwhile, defendant Benge, who was driving a 2009 Volvo truck tractor owned by defendant Watsontown Trucking Company, ended up striking plaintiff Bowser’s vehicle, the lawsuit states.

Defendant Becirevic, who was driving a tractor pulling a van or box trailer, also struck plaintiff Bowser when he couldn’t stop due to the chain reaction.

Plaintiff Samsel, meanwhile, who was also traveling eastbound, attempted to avoid the mess by steering his vehicle away from the other crashed vehicles, but he ended up hitting the right shoulder guardrail on I-80 and going down an embankment, the suit states.

Jerry Bowser ended up suffering a host of physical injuries requiring surgical repair such as a “complete traumatic disruption of the pelvic circle with multiple fractures,” as well as tendon tears and lacerations.

Samsel also sustained various disabling physical injuries, such as a concussion, bruised ribs, bulging discs and injuries to his head, neck, back and limbs, the lawsuit claims.

Each had to spend various sums of money on medical attention, and each suffered a loss of earnings and of life’s pleasures, the suit claims.

The lawsuit contains various counts of negligence, corporate negligence, vicarious liability and loss of consortium on the part of the respective spouses.

A jury trial is being sought.

The plaintiffs are being represented by Harrisburg, Pa. lawyers James R. Ronca and Michael C. Schafle of the firm Anapol, Schwartz, Weiss, Cohan, Feldman & Smalley.

The federal case number is 2:11-cv-05525-PBT.

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