$6.7 Million Jury Verdict Awarded to Family in Wrongful Death Case

On July 11, 2015, a Howell County Jury awarded a record verdict of $6.7 million dollars to the family of a 32 year old man from West Plains who was killed while driving through an unsafe MoDOT construction zone. The case arose from a head-on collision which occurred at approximately 8:07 a.m. on April 22, 2013, in a MoDOT work zone on the Highway 63 Bypass to the city of West Plains. Suit was brought by the surviving spouse, three minor children and parents of the deceased who was a worship minister at an area church at the time of his death. The verdict in favor of the family against the Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission was the highest amount that a Howell County jury has ever awarded in any case in the history of the county.

Here are some facts about the case:

  • The traffic control plan for the widening of the Highway 63 Bypass called for a barricade with a road closed sign on an intersecting road which MoDOT’s General Contractor built over 14 months prior to the fatal collision
  • The intersecting road (Ramseur Farm Road) was being used by members of the public, including the officer who investigated the accident, for well over a year, with no road closed sign or barricade despite the plans
  • A 19 year old motorist, who testified that he would never have used the intersecting road had the barricade and the road closed sign been in place, pulled out onto the highway to go south into a work zone which displayed the wrong signs which were in the wrong locations
  • There were channelizers blocking the southbound lane which had caused confusion to other motorists on the morning of the accident
  • The signs warned of a one lane road when there was no one lane road
  • Plaintiff’s expert testified that the signs were improper and that the accident would never have occurred had the barricade with a road closed sign been in place
  • MoDOT’s expert testified that the 19 year old would not have been discouraged from using the intersecting road even if the barricade had been installed because he had a 4×4 pickup and could easily have maneuvered around the barricade anyway

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