Nassau County court in Florida awarded $1 billion dollars to a family in a case in which two trucking companies hired drivers without conducting adequate background checks or ensuring the drivers could safely operate the companies’ vehicles. Because of their negligence, according to the court, they are responsible for the death of an 18-year-old victim, Connor Dzion, who was killed after one truck hit him, while he was stopped on the highway because of another truck crash in front of him.
The case was based on the accident, which occurred in 2017, after one truck crashed into a car trailering an RV, causing a standstill on the highway. The driver of the truck, Russel Rogatenko, who worked for AJD Business Services, was found by investigators to have a history of aggressive driving and speeding, and had, according to records from the scene, been using a cell phone at the time of the wreck. In addition, he did not possess a commercial driver’s license. This initial accident caused a traffic standstill for miles on the road, which the victim was stopped by.
While Dzion was stopped, another truck driver, Yadwinder Sangha, who worked for Kahkashan Carrier, drove his fully loaded tractor-trailer into a line of cars stopped, killing Dzion. According to court records, the driver didn’t hit his brakes until one second before impact. Lawyers for the Dzion family said that the company hired Sangha, who can't read English, in violation of a law that every driver must be able to read road signs in order to drive in the United States.
The Nassau County jury awarded Dzion's parents $100 million for pain and suffering and issued $900 million in punitive damages against one of the two companies.
The verdict demonstrates the potential risks and repercussions to an employer for failing to perform due diligence in hiring and failing to ensure that potential employees are qualified and capable of performing in the position for which they are hired.