A Waco mother and her two sons who were injured almost three years ago when a Sanderson Farms truck slammed into the back of their car settled their lawsuit with the chicken processing company Thursday for $27.5 million.
Judge Vicki Menard of Waco’s 414th State District Court approved the agreement during a short hearing that came after the parties in the case had been through two mediation sessions.
Waco attorney Jim Dunnam, who represents the family with Houston attorney Robert E. Ammons, said the proceeds from the settlement involve three insurance companies for Sanderson Farms and will be divided into three trust accounts that the family can draw on for long-term health and educational needs for the two boys.
One of the boys was 2 weeks old at the time of the accident and suffered severe brain damage that likely will leave him incapacitated for the rest of his life, Dunnam said. The boy, who is almost 3 now, cannot speak, walk or crawl.
The lawsuit does not identify the plaintiffs by name, only by their initials, and the Tribune-Herald is honoring Dunnam’s request not to name the family because the children are minors.
“Obviously the injury to this child and the impact to this family are catastrophic,” Dunnam said. “But the results reached today, and the funds which will be safeguarded by the court, will allow this child to receive the best possible care and reach his fullest potential in life. While this has been a difficult fight, Sanderson Farms should be acknowledged for stepping up in the end to financially see to this child’s care.”
Waco attorney Jim Hering, who represents Sanderson Farms, said the company is pleased to put the lawsuit behind them.
“I know they are looking forward to closing this matter up,” Hering said. “Sanderson Farms really cares about its employees. They care about their people, and I think this settlement today reflects how they take care of people when they step up and accept responsibility. They know with these settlement funds that this child will be taken care of for the rest of his life, and that was their idea behind this. They wanted to make sure this child was provided with the best medical care possible for the remainder of his life.”
The mother, who was waiting to turn onto Timbercrest Lane from Loop 340, suffered a compound fracture to her left arm and other injuries in the November 2013 wreck. Her older son, who was 2 at the time, suffered minor scratches on his neck.
The infant, who was in a car seat in the back, suffered a fractured skull, massive brain damage and a collapsed lung. The injuries caused one half of the baby’s brain mass in one hemisphere to die and about a third in the other hemisphere to die, according to the lawsuit.
The Sanderson Farms truck, driven by Joshua Frank Perkins, was traveling 57 mph when it struck the back of the woman’s car, according to the lawsuit. After the impact, the woman’s car was knocked into oncoming traffic and was hit by a van.
Perkins told several versions of how the wreck occurred, the lawsuit contends, but he later told his girlfriend that he fell asleep behind the wheel and struck the car.
The lawsuit alleges that in the days before the crash, Perkins worked “long and irregular work hours on a schedule which disrupted Perkins’ sleep patterns.”
On the morning of the accident, Perkins said he got up about 5:30 to drive to work at a chicken farm in Chilton. He said he had to be in Chilton between 6:30 and 7 a.m. and that he normally worked 10 to 16 hours a day. In the week before the wreck, records show Perkins worked 67.5 hours, the lawsuit states.