Gibbs family awarded $35 million in damages

Friday, October 22, 2010 | 3:46 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — A Boone County jury has awarded $35 million to the family of Anita Gibbs, an elementary school principal from Kansas City killed in a 2006 crash on Interstate 70.

CenTra Trucking Co. of Michigan plans to appeal the civil judgment.

Gibbs, 55, and three others in the car were killed when a truck, driven by George M. Albright of Clarksville, Tenn., failed to slow or brake as traffic slowed for an accident near mile marker 163 in Callaway County. Gibbs was not the driver. In 2008, Albright was acquitted on four counts of involuntary manslaughter because he was in a diabetic emergency at the time of the accident.

The Gibbs family pursued a civil case against CenTra Trucking Co., alleging that Albright was tired as he drove and also falsified trucking logs. 

The jury deliberated at Boone County Circuit Court for nearly 14 hours before awarding $30 million in punitive damages and for two more hours before deciding $5.25 million in compensatory damages. Pettis County Judge Robert Koffman oversaw the proceedings.

CenTra Trucking's attorney, David A. Domina of Omaha, Neb., said the amount in punitive charges is "not appropriate."

"Punitive damages like this are simply devastating when not appropriate," Domina said. "At $60,000 per year, which is above the average income of a Missourian, it would take the entire payroll of a workforce of 5,000 people per year. If the average number living in a house is four, that is the equivalent of all the income of a community of 20,000 people per year."

Domina began the interview by saying the trucking company has "significant respect for Mr. Gibbs and his daughters as well as for the accomplishments in the life of Anita Gibbs." She was principal of Askew Elementary School in Kansas City.

Attorneys for the Gibbs family, Daniel Thomas and Ken McClain of Independence, could not immediately be reached Friday for comment.

According to a Kansas City Star article, Thomas is quoted as saying, "CenTra was reckless in ignoring Albright's driving record and his failure to adhere to established company policies."

In the appeal, Domina hopes to lower the amount of all damages.

"My hopes are that justice will be done," Domina said. "By that I mean that the Gibbs family should receive appropriate compensation. And the trucking company should get a just outcome because the appropriate result is a result that is appropriate for all sides."

Families of the other victims settled for $18 million in total damages in 2008 in a separate case, according to the Kansas City Star.

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