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COURT UPHOLDS DECISION IN TRUCKER'S DEATH, BUT REDUCES DAMAGE AWARD

May 31, 2013

The Associated Press
Montgomery, AL

The Alabama Supreme Court has ruled that a company that manufactures trucks was liable in a driver's death but reduced a jury's punitive damage award for his survivors from $25 million to $6 million.

Tonnie Ray Witherspoon died in a Nov. 6, 1995 accident when a Mack Trucks Inc. truck Witherspoon was driving ran off the road, rolled over and burned. Witherspoon was hauling a load of logs on an attached trailer.

Mary Witherspoon sued Mack, alleging the truck was defective. A jury awarded her $50 million in punitive damages but the trial court reduced the penalty to $25 million.

Mack appealed both the verdict and the penalty.

In its ruling Friday, state Supreme Court justices voted 7-2 to uphold the lower court's ruling that Mack was liable for the driver's death. But they ruled that the punitive damage award was excessive and reduced the penalty to $6 million.

Mary Witherspoon has three weeks to accept the new penalty amount. If not, the case will be sent back for a new trial.

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