Georgians who may be planning to rent a U-Haul truck should be aware of potential problems in the U-Haul truck fleet with maintenance of their trucks that may present a safety hazard for the driver of the truck or anyone around the truck. This safety issue came to light in a trial in Texas in 2008 in which a 74-year-old man was seriously injured after a parked U-Haul truck he rented rolled over him.
In 2006, Talmidge Waldrip, a Texas resident, parked a rented U-Haul truck in front of a warehouse, set the parking brake and turned off the ignition.When he stepped out of the cab, he fell. The truck rolled, running over Waldrip, crushing his pelvis and lumbar spine, rupturing his bladder and causing a number of other serious injuries. As a result, he has had a numerous surgeries and is now partially paralyzed.
Waldrip sued the truck company, alleging negligence and gross negligence. The key to the case was evidence that the company failed to maintain the brake and transmission systems of its truck fleet properly, including the 18-year-old, 234,000-mile driven truck that caused Waldrip’s injuries. The six jurors returned an $84.25 million verdict in favor of the plaintiff, Talmadge Waldrip, including a $63 million in punitive damages against U-Haul International for failing to maintain its rental trucks in safe working order. U-Haul has appealed the verdict.
The evidence showed that six other renters who had driven this vehicle in the year before that had the same problem with rolling. Reports also showed that upwards of 30 percent of U-Haul’s rental fleet had brakes that were not properly working, and that the particular truck in question had been cited in Canada for poor maintenance and banned from being driven in that country. In addition, evidence was presented that the company chose to ship the truck back to the U.S. from Canada to keep it in operation.There are many U-Haul accidents happening throughout the United States to completely innocent renters.
Some of the cases currently pending against U-Haul involved trailers that were being pulled by a Ford Explorer. In each case, the trailer began swaying and ultimately caused the towing vehicle to roll over, leading to the driver’s death. Shortly after the first of these two cases was resolved in 2002, U-Haul issued a new policy preventing rental of its trailers when the customer is driving a Ford Explorer. “Trailer Sway” is a problem well known to U-Haul, although U-Haul apparently has ignored it over the years.
Was U-Haul’s announcement was nothing more than a publicity stunt? There are many skeptics who have handled this kind of case and some of these lawyers feel it is unsafe to allow any personal vehicle to tow a trailer, especially an SUV.
So, Dear Georgians, please consider this the next time you go to rent a U-Haul truck or trailer. There may be problems with the brakes on that vehicle that you may not realize until it is too late.