Michigan families, Indianapolis trucking companies reach settlement in fatal I-94 crash

2013-07-24T18:30:00Z 2013-07-24T21:31:22Z Michigan families, Indianapolis trucking companies reach settlement in fatal I-94 crashElvia Malagon elvia.malagon@nwi.com, (219) 933-3246 nwitimes.com

PORTAGE | An Indianapolis trucking company and two Michigan families have reached a settlement in a lawsuit stemming from a fatal crash on Interstate 94 near Portage in 2011.

Attorney Kenneth J. Allen said the parties reached the settlement Tuesday night. Johnson and Celadon Trucking Services, of Indianapolis, agreed to pay $18.5 million to Melanie Hannah and Robyn Van Dyke.

A jury in December sided with the families. The trucking company was in the process of appealing that decision when the parties reached the settlement.

The fatal crash happened Feb. 3, 2011, on I-94 east of the Portage exit. The crash killed Michigan residents Daniel Van Dyke and Richard Hannah.

A vehicle in front of Van Dyke and Hannah lost control and stopped in the road. Van Dyke and Hannah stopped behind the car, and the truck crashed into their vehicle.

During a civil trial, Allen argued a device from the semitrailer revealed the truck driver was using cruise control at 65 mph on an icy stretch of the road. Allen said the driver hit his brakes one second before the crash. The semitrailer was transporting 21 tons of crushed marble.

Attorneys representing Johnson and Celadon Trucking Services said during the trial that the driver who originally stopped in the road broke the law.

The trucking company did not immediately return calls for comment late Wednesday.

Allen said he thinks it is the largest settlement in Indiana. He said the families hope the case sends a warning to truck drivers about the dangers of driving using cruise control, especially in winter conditions. 

"The jury sent a very strong message," he said. "It's evident (the company) finally heard the message."

Allen said his clients are relieved the case is closed. He said some of the money is going toward a scholarship at Western Michigan University in memory of Daniel Van Dyke.

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