Case details

Defense: Unsafe turn with filled water truck resulted in rollover





Result type

Not present

cervical, fracture, neck
On June 24, 2008, plaintiffs’ decedent, Marty Golston, 38, a laborer, was operating a 2,000-gallon water truck that his employer rented from Hertz Equipment Rental Corporation. Golston had filled the water truck and was returning to the construction site when he made a left-hand turn at a high rate of speed, causing the truck to roll over 360 degrees. He subsequently suffered burst fractures of the cervical spine, rendering him a quadriplegic. Golston ultimately died approximately one week later due to complications from his . The decedent’s wife, Tawana Golston, and the decedent’s sons, Jamichael Weathers and Jacari Golston, sued the cab and chassis manufacturer, International Truck & Engine Corp., which later became Navistar Inc.; the water tank manufacturer, Valew Welding & Fabrication, which also did business as Hayes Welding Inc.; and the vehicle owner, Hertz Equipment Rental Corp., which ordered the chassis and tank. The decedent’s family alleged that the defendants defectively designed the truck and failed to warn of its defects. They also alleged that the defendants’ negligence constituted a breach of express warranty and breach of implied warranty. International Truck & Engine Corp. and Valew Welding & Fabrication settled with the plaintiffs prior to trial. Also, the plaintiffs’ claim of negligence was dismissed prior to trial, and the breach of express warranty and breach of implied warranty were not pursued. Thus, the matter proceeded to trial against only Hertz on the strict products liability claims of design defect and failure to warn. Plaintiffs’ counsel argued that the cause of the rollover was the design of the truck and the water tank’s failure to control the sloshing of the water during turning maneuvers. (Counsel alleged that the roof of the truck was not crashworthy, but did proceed to trial on this theory because International Truck settled out before trial.) Counsel contended that the tank should have had additional baffles to mitigate against lateral water movement, which would have prevented the rollover. Plaintiffs’ counsel further contended that some type of warning should have been provided to advise users that the dynamics of the fluid in the tank could adversely affect the vehicle’s stability and handling. Hertz contended that Marty Golston did not have the proper training or testing to operate the subject truck, and that the decedent caused the rollover by executing his left turn at an excessive speed and unsafe turning radius. To establish that Golston operated the truck vehicle unsafely, defense counsel relied on eyewitnesses who testified that Golston was traveling between 30 to 40 mph when he made the left turn, as well as relied on the fact that the truck’s speed caused it to complete a 360-degree roll. The defense’s truck design expert testified that the water movement was not the cause of the rollover, but that the speed and radius of the turn executed by Golston generated lateral acceleration rates that would have caused the truck to roll over even if the load was frozen. The expert also testified that the subject vehicle was more stable than most “big rigs” and other large types of tractor-trailers on the roadway. According to defense counsel, Judge Joseph Brisco ruled, prior to trial, that the defense could not present evidence that Marty Golston did not have a commercial driver’s license, though Hertz’s contract with Golston’s employer explicitly required that operators possess such a driver’s license. Instead, defense counsel relied on Golston’s lack of training and testing, and contended that Golston’s employer was the cause of the accident for assigning him to the truck knowing that Golston did not have the proper training or testing. Defense counsel added that another witness, a former safety supervisor for Golston’s employer, testified through deposition that Golston’s employer knew that the decedent was not qualified to operate the subject vehicle, but still assigned Golston the truck., Marty Golston suffered burst fractures of the cervical spine, rendering him a quadriplegic. However, he died approximately one week later due to complications from his . Golston was survived by his wife and their two sons. Golston’s family asked the jury to award $6.7 million in total damages, which included damages for the medical expenses Golston incurred and past and future economic loss. The total amount sought also included wrongful death damages that consisted of the family’s loss of the decedent’s care, comfort and society.
Superior Court of San Bernardino County, San Bernardino, CA

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