Todd A. Smith and Sean M. Houlihan Secure $19 Million Verdict in Wrongful Death Case

Posted By Power Rogers & Smith, L.L.P. || Jul 18, 2017

On May 18, 2017, a jury awarded $19,010,273 in damages to the Estate of Jesse Inman. Inman was killed after a semi-truck sideswiped a tow truck that was assisting his disabled vehicle while pulled over on the side of the road, causing a series of collisions that resulted in Inman being crushed against his truck.

On September 13, 2011, Inman, a tow truck/wrecker driver for the Hanifen Company, Inc. based out of Des Moines, IA was in the process of hooking up a disabled tractor trailer when the accident occurred. He was responding to a call from a Howe Company driver, James Langholf, who pulled over to the side of the road to address engine troubles at 4:53 p.m. Langholf contacted the Howe Company offices and was given the phone number for the closest towing company, Cummins Engine Company.

According to witnesses, the stretch of road that Langholf pulled over and remained at was a dangerous place to be – the speed limit for that stretch of the Interstate is 70 miles per hour.

It took until approximately 6 p.m. for the second tow truck to leave Des Moines and travel the approximately 60 miles to provide assistance to Langholf. Soon after the second vehicle arrived on the scene and pulled up approximately 115 feet behind Langholf’s vehicle, a Hiner transport semi-truck sideswiped the parked vehicle.

“This created the sequence of events that included a jack knifing of the Hiner tractor trailer; movement of the Hiner tractor onto the shoulder in a north westerly direction striking the back of the Howe trailer; slamming the Howe tractor into the back of the Hanifen wrecker and pinning Jesse Inman with enormous force against his truck,” said attorney Todd A. Smith who represented Inman’s estate along with attorney Sean M. Houlihan.

All other people involved in the crash lost their lives as well.

During the case, testimony included reconstruction from Iowa State Police who also explained proper safety procedures for this type of situation.

“There was no evidence that identified any use of the required warning devices under Federal Safety Regulations that should have been put out by the Howe driver,” said Houlihan. In addition, “the idea that a tow company should be sent from 60 miles away when there was one locally, within about 10 miles, seemed to us to represent a very serious failure to prioritize safety”, said Smith.

The damages in this case included a significant loss of society, companionship and economic loss suffered by this young family.

“Jesse [Inman] left his wife Lisa, now 33, and 3 daughters, ages now 13, 10 and 5 years," said Houlihan. “The family is obviously relieved and grateful for the acknowledgment of the enormous loss they suffered with the death of this young father and husband. His youngest was just 10 weeks old at the time of his death.”

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