On August 6, 2019, Bobby Schultz Jr. was killed when a tractor-trailer collided with the rear of the Honda Pilot he occupied as a passenger. Bobby’s mother was the driver of the Honda. He was 19 years old.
The crash occurred on a Tuesday morning before sunrise in an S curve on a Missouri interstate highway. Road Conditions were dark, light rain, and wet. Upon entering the curve, a phantom vehicle came into mom’s lane, she fishtailed, impacted the center median, impacted a pick-up truck, and ended up nearly sideways across the two lanes of the eastbound interstate.
While these events were underway, the tractor-trailer entered the S curve set on cruise control at 70 mph. Despite multiple braking slowing vehicles in the adjacent slow lane, including a dump truck, defendants’ tractor trailer proceeded down the fast lane, passing these vehicles, and hard braking only 4 seconds before impact.
Defendants struck mom and Bobby, Jr.’s vehicle in the curve at about 34 mph. Bobby lived for only minutes following the crash. He suffered a severe skull fracture and brain bleeding. His mom was concussed in the impact and has no memory of it.
Throughout litigation and trial, the defense maintained that the crash was 100% mom’s fault, and that she alone was responsible for her vehicle losing control and causing Bobby’s death. The defense also maintained that Bobby died before impact with the tractor-trailer. Defendants disputed rain, wet roads, and the existence of the phantom vehicle. Finally, the defense argued that there was nothing that the driver could have done to avoid this crash. At trial, the defense attorney asked for a defense verdict. The case presented several issues, including overcoming a historically “conservative venue”, overcoming drug impairment defenses, presenting solely noneconomic damages, and a nuanced proximate cause analysis.
The verdict was $20,025,000 - a record breaking verdict for that venue. $10,000,000 noneconomic compensatory and $10,025,000 aggravating circumstances (punitive).
The $250,000 pre-trial defense offer was rescinded after closing arguments.
The trial team consisted of Craig Schlapprizzi and Toni Schlapprizzi representing the surviving mother, and Chris Finney and Alex Ledbetter representing the surviving father.