Attorney Lance Walters, a partner at Tracey Fox & Walters, recently obtained a $5 million award for the widow of Jeremy McGee, a Republic Services employee who tragically lost his life on the job. The award, which was four times the pre-trial offer, included compensation for the plaintiff's financial loss, loss of companionship, and mental anguish.
The case (McGee et al. v. Republic Services, Inc. et al.) was filed in the Texas Western District Court on June 8, 2022. It revolved around the tragic loss of Jeremy McGee, whose untimely death left his family devastated and searching for answers.
Jeremy's death occurred in the course of his duties at Republic Services, a waste management company. On March 22, 2022, Jeremy was traveling eastbound in a tractor-trailer on Interstate 10 in Kendall County. He pulled over and parked his tractor-trailer on the improved shoulder of the highway. Jeremy exited his vehicle, and at this moment, he was struck and fatally injured by a vehicle driven by Taylor Stewart.
The circumstances surrounding Jeremy's decision to pull over at that location rather than seeking a safer spot raised questions about negligence and causation. Two theories were considered to understand Jeremy's actions that day. The first theory was related to the less-than-ideal operating conditions of his vehicle, which might have forced him to stop where he did. The second theory revolved around the possibility of a load shift in his cargo, prompting concerns about its security.
Expert testimony played a crucial role in examining these theories. Some experts supported the contention that Jeremy's vehicle experienced engine derating due to prior unaddressed engine problems. Others argued that the "Christmas lights" on the dashboard were unrelated to engine failure and that Jeremy would have been driving at a slower pace for some time if derating had occurred. However, it was noted that Jeremy did not contact his employer or anyone else at the company before exiting his vehicle, suggesting that engine failure may not have been the primary cause.
It appeared that Jeremy believed there was a problem with the securement of his cargo load. Evidence indicated that Jeremy was struck and killed near the location where a ground strap was found. The tractor-trailer had its lights and right turn signal on but not the emergency flashers, suggesting that Jeremy did not anticipate a prolonged stop. Expert testimony further revealed that the company had failed to adequately train its drivers on cargo securement and replacing worn straps, which could have played a role in Jeremy's perception of a load shift.
Taylor Stewart's vehicle struck Jeremy as he was working near the fog line. While there was some uncertainty about the exact details of how Stewart crossed the line, it was clear that Jeremy was near the fog line when he was hit. Despite the visibility of the tractor-trailer, Stewart claimed she did not see it before the collision.
Issues arose regarding the visibility of company drivers working near the roadway. Ultimately, it was established that Jeremy likely believed his uniform provided sufficient visibility and that he did not need to wear a vest. This belief may have contributed to his decision to exit his vehicle near oncoming traffic, assuming he would be visible. However, the lack of reflective clothing made him virtually invisible on that dark morning.
In assessing responsibility between Taylor Stewart and Republic Services, Inc., the nature, character, and duration of each party's negligence were considered. Stewart's negligence was characterized as a momentary lapse of attention, while Republic Services' negligence was linked to inadequate training regarding high-visibility vests. Given these factors, the allocation of responsibility was set at 25% for Stewart and 75% for Republic Services, Inc.
"Losing Jeremy McGee was a tragic and devastating event for his family, and securing this $5 million award for them was a significant step toward obtaining the justice and accountability they deserve," Attorney Walters said. "This outcome not only reflects the severity of the loss but also sends a message about the importance of safety and accountability in the workplace. We're proud to have achieved a result that can provide some financial relief and closure to Jeremy's widow during this challenging time."