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Trucking company owner, driver and repair facility owner guilty of criminal charges in fatal PA truck crash

The owner of a trucking firm has pleaded guilty to criminal charges arising from the maintenance of a defective and almost brakeless tractor-trailer rig that caused a fatal six car crash in Pennsylvania last January. He is the third man to face criminal sentences due to that wreck. They are:

* Owner of tractor portion of rig – Victor M. Kalinitchii, 41, Philadelphia, homicide by motor vehicle, faces 3 1/2 to 7 years in prison.

* Driver – Valerijs N. Belovs, 56, from Northeast Philadelphia, homicide by vehicle, faces 8 1/2 to 17 years in prison.

* Maintenance – Joseph W. Jadczak Jr., 61, owner of Pratts Auto Service in Philadelphia, homicide by motor vehicle, faces 3 1/2 to seven years in prison.

If civil remedies aren’t enough to get the attention of trucking company owners who put drivers on the road in unsafe vehicles, or require drivers to work when too fatigued to be safe, then perhaps criminal prosecutions can get their attention.

However, Georgia law on homicide by vehicle is written in terms that would be unlikely to reach beyond the driver of the vehicle. See OCGA ยง 40-6-393 and cross references. Do any of my fellow lawyers out there see an interpretation of those code section that would support criminal prosecution in Georgia of a truck owner or repair facility that put a defective truck on the road?

Ken Shigley is a trucking safety trial attorney representing seriously injured people in tractor trailer, big rig, intermodal container freight, cement truck, dump truck and bus accidents statewide in Georgia. He served as chair of the Southeastern Motor Carrier Litigation Institute in 2005, is a national board member of the Interstate Trucking Litigation Group of the American Association for Justice, and is on the National Advisory Board for the Association of Interstate Trucking Lawyers of America.

He has extensive experience representing parties in interstate trucking collision cases, and in the past two years has spoken at national interstate trucking litigation seminars in Chicago (trucking insurance), New Orleans (trial tactics and side underride issues), St. Louis (punitive damages), San Francisco (dealing with insolvent trucking companies), Atlanta (trucking insurance, closing argument), Nashville (use of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations), and Amelia Island (overview of trucking litigation).

A Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy, he has been listed as a “Super Lawyer” (Atlanta Magazine), among the “Legal Elite” (Georgia Trend Magazine), and in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers (Martindale). In addition to trucking litigation, he has broad experience in products liability, catastrophic personal injury, wrongful death, spinal cord injury, brain injury and burn injury cases. Currently he is Treasurer and a candidate for President-Elect of the 41,000 member State Bar of Georgia.This post is subject to our ethical disclaimer.