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On June 22, 2011, at around 1:30 a.m., a FedEx truck crashed into a pickup truck at I-10 outside Las Cruces, New Mexico. The pickup driver, Mariali Venegas, 22, was killed in the accident along with her 4-year-old daughter, while her infant son survived. The driver of FedEx truck, Elizabeth Quintana, also died in the crash.
Following the accident, Venegas family had filed a wrongful death lawsuit against FedEx. In Friday’s verdict, the jury has ordered FedEx to pay $165 million to settle the claim.
FedEx spokesperson Jack Pfeiffer said, “We extend our heartfelt condolences to those affected by this tragic accident…We respectfully disagree with the jury’s verdict and are exploring our options, including appeal.”
The lawsuit was filed by the family of a Veteran, Cliff Douglass, who was diagnosed with melanoma in May 2011 and died in November 2012. Douglass served in the U.S. Army just after the Vietnam War and later worked in Puget Sound, Washington. According to his family, a VA scheduler had to refer him for surgery at the University of Washington but he never made the call. The cancer kept spreading for 3 months until Douglass himself made the appointment. By then, the cancer had spread throughout his body.
Recently in January 2015, the Department of Veterans Affairs agreed to pay $900,000 to settle the wrongful death suit filed by Douglass’ sister Connie Olberg. According to Olberg, “I don’t think we can ask for more than that.”
It is believed that the settlement is the largest wrongful death payout by the VA Puget Sound since 2001.
The June 2011 crash involved a FedEx big rig that struck the back of Venegas’ pickup truck on I-10 outside Las Cruces. Venegas’s 19-month-old son survived. FedEx driver Elizabeth Quintana did not. Quintana was going 65 mph, and struck the pickup which was pulled over with hazard lights on.
The award of $165 million is a record wrongful death judgement in New Mexico.