An appeals court has affirmed a Wise County, Texas jury's verdict that TXI Transportation Co. and the driver of an 18-wheel rock hauler were responsible for the December 2002 deaths of a woman, her mother and her two children, the Dallas Morning News
reports. The appeals court decided, however, to eliminate punitive damages in the case, cutting the award to the victims' families from $23.5 million to about $16 million. The hotly contested case stemmed from a horrific accident on a sunny day just eight days before Christmas in 2002. The accident was featured prominently in a Dallas Morning News
investigation into truck safety. At trial, the victims' attorneys successfully argued that rock hauler Ricardo Reyna Rodriguez was driving in the wrong lane when the accident occurred. Rodriguez and TXI argued that he had not driven in the wrong lane. According to the Dallas Morning News
, Rodriguez is an illegal immigrant from Mexico and had used a fake Social Security number to get a Texas commercial driver's license six years earlier. He had found steady work around North Texas driving rock trucks and other 18-wheelers, his history of immigration arrests and truck safety violations ignored or overlooked.