Attorney Kevin Coluccio was published in the Winter/Spring 2020 edition of the Journal of Trucking Litigation. Below is the transcript of the full article, with minor changes for accurate digital representation.
See the PDF: Trucking Law: Jurisdiction and Venue Can Enhance Case Value.
Good lawyers know the importance of a choosing a forum that best serves your clients need. As a lawyer, you can have all the talent in the world, but the value of your case is still limited by the jurisdiction where the lawsuit was filed. In this article, we explain how we took a truck crash in Washington State, discovered how jurisdiction could be found in Clark County, Nevada and how we successfully kept the case in Clark County, Nevada. Our ability to try the trucking law case in Clark County, Nevada no doubt enhanced the recovery for our clients.
How a truck driver’s file put a Washington crash in Nevada court
It was a warm, sunny Labor Day afternoon in Lewis County, Washington. A young couple—Jeremy and Kerri—were driving to a local park and campground. Garrett, the 15-year-old son of their best friends, rode with them, chatting about school and high school football from the front passenger seat of the Dodge Stratus.
As they neared a campground on Washington State Highway 2, Jeremy flipped on the left turn signal, slowed and came to a stop, waiting for oncoming traffic to clear. Just as he was about to turn in to the campground, a semi-truck plowed into the back of the Dodge Stratus at nearly 60 mph. The impact propelled the car into the oncoming lane, where it was obliterated by an F350 Ford pick-up pulling a 5th wheel trailer.
Both Kerri and Garrett suffered fatal injuries. Jeremy sustained a serious traumatic brain injury and countless physical injuries. Kevin Coluccio and Matt Sharp represented Garrett’s surviving parents, Steve and Rachel and his estate. Lincoln Sieler and Rick Friedman represented Jeremy and the Estate of Kerri.
Our clients were Washington residents. The crash occurred in Washington. The trucking company was a Washington resident with operations in Washington and Oregon. All the non-commercial drivers involved in the crash were citizens of Washington or Oregon. Mr. Harrison, the driver of the truck, was 79 years old. He had a Nevada Commercial Driver’s License. Mr. Harrison chose to operate his employer’s truck under the authority of a Nevada CDL (Commercial Driver’s License) even though he told troopers at the scene that he was a Washington resident.
Here’s how— and why— we filed wrongful death claims in Clark County, Nevada.
We started our investigation with Mr. Harrison, the 79-year-old semi-truck driver who struck Jeremy’s car. He had given a Centralia, Washington address to the police but the CDL authorizing him to operate a tractor trailer had been issued by the State of Nevada.
Washington and Nevada each have their own CDL manual, and each contains similar language on the safe operation of a commercial vehicle. But—crucially—both Washington and Nevada adopted the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations for intrastate transport. See WAC 446-65-010 & NAC 483.80. Federal regulations clearly require a commercial driver’s license to be issued from the state in which the driver is a resident. A semi-truck driver like Harrison can only have one CDL—and it is required to be issued from the licensing agency of his resident state.