Plaintiff wins $411 million during virtual court hearing for I-10 pileup lawsuit

Published: Oct. 5, 2020 at 6:09 PM EDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - If you were on I-10 around 5 p.m. on July 24, 2018, you probably saw the massive pileup of more than 45 vehicles. It resulted in more than 18 accidents, and one motorcyclist, was left critically injured.

Duane Washington, 42, was virtually paralyzed because of the crash that day. Friday, his case against the trucking company Top Auto Express Trucking Company, was the first virtual trial held in Florida’s Second Circuit Court. It resulted in one of the largest amounts in damages awarded via a Zoom trial this year in the United States.

Attorney Ben Crump, who represents Washington, won an award of more than $411 million in damages for his client. Crump says Washington was a veteran from Quincy, Florida, and that stormy evening in 2018 changed his life forever.

Looking at footage and photos captured by WCTV the day of the pileup, you can see a motorcycle damaged and destroyed. That motorcycle belonged to Duane Washington, a man who is a decorated veteran, serving in the Army for eight years.

Crump says Washington said in life he was good at two things: serving his country and being a father to his three children. His injuries have made doing both nearly impossible.

“It is very, very challenging to go from being the caretaker that everyone can depend on, to being that person that needs constant care,” shares Crump.

According to WCTV’s previous reporting, more than 18 car crashes resulted in at least 8 hospitalizations. That Tuesday, there was heavy rain which caused a slow down on the roads. A semi-truck with Top Auto Trucking Company tried to avoid a collision, but instead jackknifed and caused the domino effect of crashes.

According to attorney Crump, Washington was attempting to avoid the collision when he crashed into a pick-up truck, launching him into the median.

“Duane was the one who was the most horribly injured as we understand it,” Crump says.

WCTV left multiple messages with Top Auto Trucking Company and received no answer. According to multiple sites, the company opened its doors in March of 2018 and is still open with one trucker and one driver.

“The violation of Top Auto Trucking Company, who had a duty to follow the safety laws and slow down,” says Crump. “Was the cause of this crash that left Duane Washington and his three sons irrevocably harmed.”

WCTV also reached out to the attorney listed for Top Auto, Michael Sastre, who is from the Miami area. He states his team withdrew from litigation a couple months before trial. He states that the trucking company moved forward with trial, undefended.

Attorney Crump shares that he is not familiar with any other lawsuits in connection to this collision. A spokeswoman with Florida Highway Patrol says all of the crashes are closed, meaning there was no further investigation after July 24.

As for Duane, he is receiving treatment and therapy in his home in Gadsden County.

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