On July 19, 2018, an Upshur County, Texas jury returned a $101.1 million dollar verdict against Fort Worth-based FTS International Services, LLC and its employee, Bill Acker. While operating an 18-wheeler in September 2013 in Ore City, Texas, Mr. Acker rear ended the plaintiff, Joshua Patterson, who was represented by Goudarzi & Young, LLP. Post-accident drug testing revealed that at the time of the accident, Mr. Acker had marijuana and methamphetamines in his system. The plaintiff also put on evidence that, although FTS had robust internal policies and procedures, FTS disregarded said procedures as they related to the hiring and training of Mr. Acker. In defense, FTS attempted to paint itself as a company that takes training and safety very seriously by offering evidence that purportedly demonstrated that Mr. Acker received extensive new driver training, including defensive driving training and drug and alcohol training, and that FTS had the highest FMCSA safety rating. The jury found both FTS and Mr. Acker negligent and grossly negligent.
As a result of the accident, the plaintiff suffered neck and back injuries that ultimately required a disc replacement surgery in his spine.
The plaintiff was represented by National Trial Lawyers member Brent Goudarzi and Marty Young of Goudarzi & Young, LLP in Gilmer, Texas. Defendant FTS International Services, LLC was represented by Pat Long, managing partner of Squire Patton Boggs (US) LLP in Dallas, Texas and Keith Starr of Starr Schoenbrun & Comte PLLC in Tyler, Texas. Defendant Bill Acker was represented by Snow Bush of Longview, Texas.
Just two and-a-half months later—on October 11, 2018—another Upshur County, Texas jury returned a $27.4 million verdict for an East Texas plaintiff injured in a 2016 automobile accident. The plaintiff, 55-year old Hershell Wingfield of Gilmer, also represented by Goudarzi & Young, LLP, was at a complete stop attempting to make a left-hand turn when he was rear-ended by another vehicle traveling 60-65 miles per hour. The offending vehicle was driven by Shane Wood, an employee of Multiband Field Services, Inc. As a result of the collision, Mr. Wingfield sustained injuries to his neck and back which required multiple surgeries and the implantation of a spinal cord stimulator. The jury found both the driver and the company were negligent in causing the plaintiff’s injuries. After receiving the verdict, Mr. Wingfield’s attorney, NTL member Brent Goudarzi, stated, “this is another strong reminder that the good people of Upshur County will not tolerate corporate indifference when it comes to hiring and training employees who operate motor vehicles in our community.”
The defendants were represented by David Merkley and Sarah Jones of the law firm of Germer in Houston, Texas, Jessica Barger and Andrew Nelson of the law firm Wright, Close & Barger in Houston, Texas, Michael Tiliakos and Anthony Rao, in-house counsel for Goodman Networks (the parent company of Multiband Field Services) in New York, New York, and Curtis Fenley of the law firm of Fenley & Bates in Lufkin, Texas.
The Honorable Lauren Parish, District Judge of the 115th Judicial District, presided over both trials.