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Home / Verdicts & Settlements / Fatal semitrailer collision case nets $3M settlement

Fatal semitrailer collision case nets $3M settlement

Parties disputed venue, jurisdiction, whether Kan. damage cap applied

The family of a man killed in a head-on collision with a semitrailer has reached a $3 million settlement with the trucking company and its driver.

Justin Lee Coffman, 28, was driving a 1994 Toyota Camry on Kansas Highway 10 in Johnson County, Kan., at 6:48 a.m. April 14, 2006. He was on his way to his job as an information technology specialist for the Internal Revenue Service.

A semitrailer owned by O&S Trucking, of Springfield, and operated by employee Ernest Martin crossed the median and struck Coffman’s oncoming vehicle. Martin, 61, claimed he had reached down to retrieve a dropped cup of coffee.

Coffman died at the scene. He left behind a wife, Tara Coffman, and two children – Gabriel Coffman, 2 1/2 months, and Brianna Hibbard, 9.

Coffman’s family filed suit in Jackson County and Greene County. Venue and jurisdictional issues were appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court but ultimately upheld. The parties also disputed whether the $250,000 Kansas cap on noneconomic damages would apply.

Two weeks before trial in Jackson County, the parties agreed to settle for $3 million. The settlement included $2 million in insurance coverage plus an additional $1 million to be paid over a period of years.

As part of the settlement, plaintiffs agreed to seek approval of the proposed wrongful death settlement in Greene County and dismiss their case in Jackson County upon approval, said plaintiffs’ attorney Tim Becker, of Dollar, Burns & Becker in Kansas City. The settlement was approved in Greene County, and the Jackson County suit was subsequently dismissed.

The confidential defense attorney confirmed the reported settlement details but declined further comment.

  • â–  $3 million settlement
  • â–  Wrongful death
  • â–  Court: Jackson and Greene County Circuit Courts
  • â–  Case Number/Date: 0616-CV13856/Dec. 17, 2008; 0831-CV11825/Oct. 8, 2008
  • â–  Judges: Brian Wimes (Jackson County) and J. Dan Conklin (Greene County)
  • â–  Plaintiffs’ Experts: Arthur Atkinson, Glendale, Ariz. (safety); Gerald Miller, Kansas City (economist)
  • â–  Defendants’ Experts: George Bealieu, Lorena, Texas (safety); H.E. Gary Jernigan, Tyler, Texas (forensic engineer); Marc Vianello, Mission, Kan. (certified public accountant)
  • â–  Special Damages: $20,786 funeral expenses; $607,838 lost wages
  • â–  Insurance Carrier: Confidential
  • â–  Caption: Tara Coffman, Linda Coffman, The Estate of Justin Lee Coffman, Gabriel Coffman, Minor, Brianna Hibbard, Minor, and Jennifer McBath, Next Friend v. O&S Trucking, Inc. and Ernest Martin
  • â–  Plaintiffs’ Attorneys: Tim Dollar and Tim Becker, Dollar, Burns & Becker, Kansas City
  • â–  Defendants’ Attorney: Confidential