Case details

Faulty tires and overloaded truck caused fatal crash: family





Result type

Not present

crush injury, death
On July 17, 2017, plaintiffs’ decedent Yadvinder Singh, 30, a truck driver, was performing a hauling job on behalf of a trucking company, Destination Anywhere Inc., which was hired to transport aggregate materials from Granite Construction Co.’s facility in Tracy to a construction site in Patterson. (As Granite Construction was an aggregate supplier, it had no contractual relationship with Destination Anywhere.) After Granite Construction’s employee loaded Singh’s super dump truck with washed sand, Singh headed out to the construction site. As he was driving on State Route 33, in the Modesto area, the front, passenger side tire suffered a blowout, causing the truck to veer off the road and roll over several times. Singh suffered serious blunt force in the accident and later died at a hospital. The decedent’s wife, Gagandeep Kaur, and two minor sons, Jaijeet Singh and Teghjeet Singh, sued the registered owner of the subject truck, Destination Anywhere; the chief executive officer at Destination Anywhere, Jasharinderpal Singh; and Granite Construction Co. Plaintiffs’ counsel contended that Destination Anywhere registered the decedent’s truck with the Department of Motor Vehicles to carry more than 10 percent of the vehicle’s legal weight and that the company failed to conduct a mandatory, 90-day inspection of the truck just two days before the fatal crash. Counsel argued that if Destination Anywhere had done the inspection, the company would have discovered that the right, front tire tread depth was well below the legal limit and that it needed to be replaced before the truck operated on the road again. Counsel also argued that Destination Anywhere’s prior 90-day inspection reports exhibited a pattern of “pencil whipping,” which was a practice of marking a report with all positive check marks without actually inspecting the vehicle. In addition, plaintiffs’ counsel argued that Granite Construction was negligent for overloading the decedent’s truck nine times on the date of the accident. The decedent’s family had also originally brought a claim of unfair business competition. However, after several demurrers, Judge Paul Burdick sustained defense counsel’s demurrer, without leave to amend on the unfair business competition claim, holding that the plaintiffs lacked standing to sue pursuant to the Unfair Competition Law. Destination Anywhere’s counsel contended that although the decedent had filled out daily vehicle inspection reports and submitted them to Destination Anywhere, the decedent had failed to conduct a mandatory pre-trip vehicle inspection on the date of the crash. Counsel contended that, per California law, a driver must inspect his/her vehicle, including the tires, and note any defects that affect safety before operating that vehicle. Counsel argued that despite the plaintiff’s experts opining that the subject tire would have shown visible signs of tread separation and insufficient tread depth, the decedent routinely checked that the right front tire was “okay,” as he did on the day of the accident. Destination Anywhere’s counsel further contended that the purpose of the DMV registration for truck weight is to make sure the DMV is paid an appropriate amount for the wear and tear trucks put on the highway. However, counsel argued that despite having been told that the truck could carry up to 19.5 tons, the decedent routinely instructed aggregate suppliers, like Granite Construction, to load the truck up to 23 tons, such as he did on the day of the accident. In addition, counsel argued that the decedent was negligent for braking after the tire blew out. Destination Anywhere contended that, as an owner-operator, it leased the truck to the decedent and that all maintenance was the decedent’s responsibility, pursuant to the written lease agreement. Its counsel contended that, by April 2017, the decedent had decided to be an independent contractor and purchase the truck from Destination Anywhere. Thus, counsel contended that the decedent entered into an independent contractor agreement, a lease to own agreement, and a finance agreement, whereby the decedent would have had 12 equal payments deducted from his earnings toward the purchase of the truck. Destination Anywhere subsequently remained the registered owner of the truck until the 12 payments were completed, at which time the decedent would have become the registered owner. Thus, counsel contended that, per the agreements, all maintenance and repair of the truck were the responsibility of the decedent and that as a result, Destination Anywhere removed the truck from its regular inspection and maintenance program that was performed by its in-house mechanics. Destination Anywhere claimed that it understood, per the agreements, that the decedent would be responsible for having 90-day inspections done on the truck, but later conceded that, under California Motor Carrier Law, it was responsible for ensuring the inspection had been completed. Granite Construction’s counsel argued that Granite Construction was not acting as a motor carrier, as defined under Vehicle Code § 408 and 13 CCR §1201(s), and that Granite Construction did not owe a duty as a motor carrier to the decedent under the Vehicle Code. Counsel also argued that Granite Construction was not the registered owner, lessee, licensee, or bailee of the decedent’s vehicle and that it only acted as a supplier of construction materials. Counsel contended that Granite Construction did not subcontract with Destination Anywhere to transport materials, but was hired directly by the general contractor. Counsel also disputed that the decedent’s vehicle was overloaded based on DMV records. Thus, Granite Construction’s counsel argued that the decedent’s comparative fault included numerous representations to weighmasters on prior occasions to fill the vehicle with the amount present on the date of the incident and the decedent’s negligent operation of the vehicle while knowing the tires were in bad condition and engaging in group calls while driving., Yadvinder Singh sustained multiple blunt force trauma and was subsequently transported by paramedics to Kaiser Permanente Modesto Medical Center and Medical Offices, in Modesto, where he died later that evening. Singh, then 30, was survived by his wife, Gagandeep Kaur, then a 29-year-old homemaker, and his two sons, Jaijeet Singh, then 2, and Teghjeet Singh, then 10 months old. Kaur was suffering from a chronic kidney condition at the time of her husband’s death. Thus, the decedent’s family sought recovery of approximately $1.5 million in economic damages for the loss of the decedent’s financial support and household services. They also sought recovery of noneconomic damages for the loss of the decedent’s love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, affection, and moral support. In addition, they sought recovery of punitive damages against all of the defendants.
Superior Court of Santa Cruz County, Santa Cruz, CA

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