Jury Awards $24M to Woman Hit by Driver in Texas on Phone

May 7, 2012

A Corpus Christi jury awarded $24 million to a woman who was hit by a Coca-Cola truck driver who was chatting on her cellphone.

The jury decided to give 37-year-old Vanice Chatman-Wilson $10 million in punitive damages and $14 million in actual damage.

Chatman-Wilson’s attorneys argued their client suffered neck and back pain and had to undergo lumbar surgery after the 2010 accident, when the truck hit the Ford Fusion she was driving.

Coca-Cola said in a statement that it plans to appeal the jury’s decision, the Corpus Christi Caller-Times reported. The beverage company has a policy requiring drivers to use a hands-free device when using a cellphone while driving. The driver maintains she was using a headset, in accordance with company policy.

But Bob Hilliard, one of Chatman-Wilson’s attorneys, said the policy is not enforced.

“Not only does Coke need to change it, but when other companies hear the verdict, they will take a look at their policies,” Hilliard said.

Coca-Cola, however, said in a statement the damages awarded to Chatman-Wilson had no connection to her injuries.

Araceli Vanessa Cabral, the 30-year-old truck driver, testified she was not aware of the risks involved in using a cellphone while driving, Chatman-Wilson’s attorney Thomas J. Henry said. Cabral testified that had she known, she would not have used her phone.

The jury is trying to tell Coca-Cola Enterprises to change its policy, Henry said.

“We really need better rules, regulations and laws, and corporations need to have a no-cellphone policy while operating a vehicle,” he said.

Latest Comments

  • May 22, 2012 at 10:16 am
    Roger Allen says:
    To many accidents are happening because of cell phone use. It's hard for me to understand a driver claim they didn't know how dangerous it is to drive a commercial vehicle an... read more
  • May 17, 2012 at 3:12 pm
    youngin' says:
    Yeah, sounds like the company threw her under the, uh, Coke Truck on this.
  • May 8, 2012 at 10:20 am
    Agent says:
    The attorney saw deep pockets and went for it. Had it been just a redneck contractor, they would have gotten policy limits and that would have been the end of it.
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