A jury in Austin today awarded truck driver Louis Martinez more than $267,000 in a suit arising out of his termination by a trucking company after he refused to drive with an unsafe load. Martinez was terminated by his employer, Safeshred, last year after refusing to haul a load of steel shelves from Austin to San Antonio. He testified that the load was imbalanced and that the securing straps were worn but he was told to leave the yard; after a few miles, he returned to the yard because the shifting load made it hard to control the truck and he told his supervisor he was afraid someone would get killed by a truck wreck from the unstable load. He was ordered to get back on the road and was fired when he refused. The company sent the load with another driver and during that trip, the load came loose and crashed through the cab of the truck.
Kudos to Mr. Martinez for his safe and sensible refusal to put himself and others in harm’s way. The maddening thing about the verdict is the arrogant attitude of the owner, Donald Wallace, who said the verdict was “exorbitant” and that he “fully expects” that it will be reversed on appeal. Unfortunately, as long as the appeals courts go out of their way to protect businesses and insurers over consumers, he could be right.
Martinez made I-35 safer for us that day. Wallace and his company “fully expect” that they’ll be allowed to continue with business as usual, even if that means putting unsafe loads on the road.