SANTA FE, N.M. — Jurors who wanted to send a message to the trucking industry awarded $58.5 million to the estate and family of a Carlsbad man fatally injured in a 2010 accident when his vehicle collided with an oil industry tanker.
The award in a wrongful-death suit stemming from the death of Kevin Udy included $47 million in punitive damages against three companies, and jurors said they "expect a much higher standard of safety and training from the trucking industry."
The jury's statement was read in court by the jury foreman when the verdict was announced Wednesday.
The president of a statewide group representing plaintiffs' lawyers said Friday that the $58.5 seemed to be the largest award by a New Mexico verdict.
Ray Vargas, an Albuquerque lawyer who is president of the New Mexico Trial Lawyers Association, said he was aware of two $54 million awards in nursing home cases. "This one is the biggest number," he said.
The tractor-trailer that collided with Udy's pickup was used to carry water extracted from oil wells near Carlsbad.
According to news stories at the time, the tanker truck made a left turn in front of a pickup truck driven by Udy, which then struck the tanker truck's trailer.
Defendants in the suit included Zia Transport Inc. of Hobbs and two Lubbock, Texas companies, Bergstein Enterprises and Standard E&S LLC, along with the driver.
The jury ruled that all four defendants were negligent, and the portion of the ruling awarding punitive damages said each of the three companies' actions were "malicious, willful, reckless or wanton."
Defense attorney Randal Roberts said the award isn't "supportable" and will be appealed.
Attorney Bill Robins, the lead lawyer for Udy's estate and his family, said the award sends a "strong message for safety."
Udy was married and had five children and a stepson. His obituary said he got his degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Washington and worked in Carlsbad with Intrepid Potash.