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In 2005, a dump truck that was traveling downhill on the Avon Mountain in Connecticut, lost control when its faulty brakes gave out on the 500 foot hill on Route 44. The result was a twenty-car accident, the deaths of four and injuries to nineteen others. One of the victims, Michael Cummings, is now arguing before the Connecticut Supreme Court that the state’s Department of Transportation (DOT) should be held accountable for the accident. Among his allegations, he asserts that state officials had knowledge of the dangers posed by that portion of the highway and did nothing about it, such as adding a truck ramp at the bottom of the hill.
Mr. Cummings suffered multiple injuries during the crash. He had multiple broken bones, a punctured lung, knocked out teeth and post-traumatic stress from the accident. The plaintiff is not alone in requesting that the DOT be held accountable for the accident—there are at least two others with identical lawsuits. The DOT responds by requesting government immunity and by arguing that the road was not defective at the time of the accident.
Further, Joel Faxon, the attorney for another plaintiff looking to hold the DOT accountable claims that state officials knew of the dangers of the road as early as 1984 from recommendations made by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. A series of improvements, including a runaway truck ramp, were not included until 2008, years after the fatal crash. Opposing counsel refers to statistics when defending their position. They reference that only a total of five accidents took place on that road where trucks had their brakes fail between 1995 and 2005, when over two million trucks have traveled that stretch of road.
The owner of the trucking company that caused the accident back in 2005, David Wilcox, was sentenced to six years in prison for manslaughter, assault and insurance fraud. The truck driver in the accident was among those dead.