VALPARAISO -- A Porter County jury rendered a $2 million verdict against an
area trucking company for a 1996 accident that killed a 16-year old Valparaiso
After deliberating four hours, the jury announced the verdict Thursday in the
courtroom of Porter Superior Court Judge Nancy Vaidik. The wrongful death suit
was brought by parents Matthew and Sonia Harber against Indian Trucking
Company, which has offices in Portage and South Bend.
Jury verdicts in such cases are usually are low, but the $2 million award was
the largest in Indiana for the wrongful death of a dependent child, Valparaiso
injury attorney Kenneth Allen, who represented the Harbers, said in a press
On Oct. 25, 1996, April Harber died when the car she was in collided with a
semi-trailer truck at the intersection of U.S. 6 and County Road 200 West.
Originally, the Harbers did not intend to file a suit in the accident because
the car's driver said he had misjudged the semi's speed when he pulled into the
However, a State Police investigation later found that the semi had seven
safety problems including defective and non-functional brakes, violating state
and federal regulations.
Allen said it was the trucking company's duty to take the semi off the road.
"Instead of taking this killer semi-truck off the road, Indian illegally
overloaded it and sent it from South Bend to Schererville," Allen said. "It was
a rolling tragedy waiting to happen."
Sonia Harber, April's mother, said in a press release that the jury's verdict
would dissuade trucking companies from putting unsafe vehicles on the road.
"If this will send a message to trucking companies to keep their semi-trucks in
repair so that another mother or father need not go through this in the future,
then April's death will not have been in vain," Harber said.