It’s certainly part of human nature to be suspicious of individuals and companies who repeatedly operate in a manner detrimental to the public good. Of course, circumstances must be considered, but it is common for many of the public to be all too willing to give accused persons or corporate entities benefit of the doubt before all the facts are in.
Here in the U.S., an individual is considered innocent until proven guilty, but at the same time it is the job of prosecutors and plaintiffs’ lawyers to investigate the facts to find evidence proving that the defendant(s) are guilty or responsible for the violation of law with which they have been charged. Sadly, not only do the wheels of justice sometimes turn slowly, they can also be derailed even after a verdict is brought down against a defendant.
At our firm, as experienced Maryland personal injury lawyers, we have seen examples of companies and individuals who have been able to avoid paying their penance for various offenses against individual citizens as well as the state. Not long ago, we came across a news item that illustrates what can happen when a company that has been found guilty of wrongdoing in a court of law is able to avoid the full punishment of the law through various means. While car accidents and motorcyle wrecks take their toll on motorists, trucking-related crashes can cause some serious carnage.
According to news reports, the jury in a civil trial a civil jury found Hanover-based Gunther’s Leasing Transport, Inc. negligent in 1997 of an accident that resulted in the death of one individual and the injury of seven other people. The jury awarded the victims and their families almost $16 million in punitive damages and medical expenses. But according to the news article, Brian Buber, who was crippled and suffered severe brain damage as a result of the crash never saw a dime of the $13 million set aside by the jury’s verdict for the man’s future care; this according to statements from the man’s stepfather.
The accident that maimed Mr. Buber happened back in September 1994, when a truck apparently owned by Gunther’s Leasing careened into a construction area along a stretch of the Capital Beltway, crushing the paving equipment being operated by Buber and his coworkers. Many of the men at that work site escaped serious injury, yet some were badly injured or killed; Buber, still wheelchair-bound from the trucking accident 17 years ago, continues to await his monetary award.
But Mr. Buber’s wait has been apparently in vain, however; even though the Baltimore County court granted victims a multimillion-dollar collective damage award, Gunther reportedly declared bankruptcy shortly after the case wrapped up. With the company liquidated, Gunther effectively ended the Buber family’s years-long legal battle for compensation for the man’s extensive injuries.
Now, almost two decades later, a shocking revelation came to the family a couple months ago when news that federal trucking regulators had closed down another Gunther-owned trucking company. Calling Gunther’s latest trucking operation an “imminent hazard” to the public, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has also proposed new regulations to help identify newly-established companies that may be attempting to dodge a history of safety violations.
Perhaps not surprisingly, court and federal records indicate that the Gunther operation in Hanover was reconstituted three different times due to legal or financial troubles. During all that time, the company’s fleet continued to be operated at the same location even following so-called liquidation of Gunther’s Leasing Transport; and even after the owner went to prison for more than two years. For those who are wondering, 56-year-old Mark David Gunther was the nation’s first trucking executive to be convicted — in 1995 — of falsifying drivers’ log books.
Trucking companies leave long trail of safety violations and victims, BaltimoreSun.com,
November 19, 2011