An Albuquerque judge ended 10 years of litigation and awarded $80 million in the wrongful death of a woman who suffered a slow and painful death while trapped in her vehicle. Laura Miera, 48, had just dropped her daughter off at school when she stopped at a red light. Truman Bahe, who was driving a tractor trailer full of sand for Albuquerque Redi-Mix Inc. and Quintana Enterprises, lost control of the truck and struck Miera’s car. The impact caused the tractor-trailer to roll over and pin Miera in her vehicle while 25 tons of sand poured out of the truck and into Miera’s car. Despite emergency rescue efforts, Miera suffered a terrible death at the scene in front of school employees due to compression asphyxiation. (UPI News)
Rhode Island personal injury lawyers were surprised to hear that the case revealed the tractor-trailer was negligently maintained. At the time of the accident the vehicle had three sets of breaks out of adjustment and an expired registration. The American Association for Justice’s Trial magazine claims the suit charged Bahe with a history of driving under the influence because he had two DWI charges before he was hired by Redi-Mix.
District Court Judge Shannon Bacon awarded compensatory damages to the estate of $16.74 million, $2 million to Miera’s daughter and $1 million to Miera’s husband for loss of companionship. Bacon also ordered $60 million in punitive damages against Quintana Enterprises, Albuquerque Redi-Mix, and owners John and Barbara Quintana.