Maryland to Pay Portion of $2 Million Jury Award in Highway Traffic Death Suit

A Maryland jury recently found the state of Maryland and a commercial truck driver liable for more than $2 million in damages following the 2007 death of a prison inmate who was killed along a highway exit ramp while removing trash and garbage from I-495. The jury award of $2,025,000 will go to the estate and family of Rodney Jennings, who died after being run over by a dump truck driven by Wayne Goss — Goss is the owner of W.H. Goss Trucking, LLC.

According to reports, Jennings — who was 28 years old at the time of his death — was serving time for a drug-related crime at the Herman L. Toulson Boot Camp in Jessup, MD. Although Goss was not working for Maryland at the time of the traffic accident, the Jennings’ family’s attorney argued that the state was also responsible for the man’s death because it did not sufficiently ensure Jennings’ safety.

Based on court records, the plaintiff’s lawyer claimed that employees in Maryland’s Department of Corrections — as well as the State Highway Administration — did not correctly evaluate the traffic conditions near the exit ramp where the accident occurred. They should have, said the attorney, required that inmates traverse that particular portion of the highway by van, instead of on foot as Jennings was doing when he was struck. The family’s attorney also threw fault on the apparently poor training received by the state workers who were assigned to monitor the inmates work.

A spokesman for the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services said the department has instituted policy changes since the fatal accident in August 2007. Now workers are reportedly required to be driven across exit ramps and other similar traffic areas by way of a state corrections van instead of by foot.

At the time of the news article, it was not yet known what portion of the settlement would be paid by the state of Maryland and how much would be paid by Goss. Apparently, there were also no plans for any criminal charges to be filed against Goss regarding the accident.

Md. jury awards $2 million in inmate highway death,, June, 24, 2010

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