Wrongful death suit claims tractor trailer accident caused by distracted driver

By Jim Boyle | Oct 6, 2014

The wife of a Lancaster County man who was killed in a tractor trailer crash in 2012 says the other driver caused the collision when he took his eyes off the road to get a drink of soda, according to a wrongful death suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

Tracy James, of Reinholds, Pa., seeks compensatory and punitive damages against the driver, Ronald Dawley, his employer,  Palmer Fish Co. based in Rochester, N.Y., the company that owned and operated the tractor trailer Dawley operated, Conway Beam Leasing, and the company that contracted Dawley's transportation services, G & C Food Distributors & Brokers.

According to the complaint, James' husband, Richard James, stopped his tractor trailer in the eastbound lane of Morris Avenue in Allentown on the morning of Oct. 4, 2012. The claim says that James got out of the cab, turned on his rear trailer lights and brake lights and stood curbside near the passenger door.

Minutes later, Dawley traveled along the eastbound lane in his own tractor trailer, approaching James' stopped truck. The complaint says that Dawley took his eyes off the road to reach down and grab a cup of soda, took a sip, then returned his attention to the street. According to the claim, Dawley told police after the accident that he saw James's trailer before and after he grabbed the soda.

Dawley attempted to veer out of the way, but it was too late, the claim says. His truck hit the left rear side of James trailer, causing it to lurch forward 50 feet and striking James, ultimately killing him. Emergency responders found the victim partially under his own truck's tires.

The claim says that there is no evidence indicating that Dawley had applied his brakes, and police determined that there were no mechanical problems with the defendant's truck. The plaintiff says that Dawley's negligent actions contributed directly to the death of her husband. Dawley drove too fast for the road conditions, failed to maintain control of the vehicle and permitted his truck to crash into the deceased's.

Tracy James also holds the companies employing Dawley negligent for failing to properly train and supervise him on the operation of the large, dangerous tractor trailers. She seeks damages in excess of $75,000 for the death of her husband.

The plaintiff is represented by attorneys from McNees Wallace and Nurick LLC in Harrisburg, Pa.

The federal case ID is 5:14-cv-05667-JLS.

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