$6 million jury verdict for truck driver whose employer insisted he make deliveries in dangerous weather. Sacramento County.
Employer required hazardous materials truck driver to make deliveries in severe storm, then insisted he return for more after his shift even though he informed employer he had been drinking after work. He was fired for not returning to work.
- Case Name: Webb v. Ramos Oil Company
- Court and Case Number: Sacramento Superior Court / CV 09‐521
- Date of Verdict or Judgment: Thursday, July 12, 2012
- Date Action was Filed: Saturday, December 27, 2008
- Type of Action: Employment, Wrongful Termination
- Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Daniel P. Maguire
- Plaintiffs: Danny Webb, currently 50, truck driver/delivery
- Defendants: Ramos Oil Company
- Type of Result: Jury Verdict
- Gross Verdict or Award: $6,241,655 (Plus §998 Interest 10% per annum beginning June 16, 2010: $532,770; Plus Attorney Fees ‐ TBD; Plus Litigation Costs – TBD)
- Economic Damages:
$163,852 (Past Wages: $58,012; Future Lost Wages: $105,840)
- Non-Economic Damages:
$2,500,000 (Past Mental Suffering: $1,000,000; Future Mental Suffering: $1,500,000)
- Punitive Damages:
- Jury Deliberation Time: 2 hours on July 12, 2012 for economic/non-economic damages. 1 hour on July 13, 2012 for punitive damages phase.
- Jury Polls: Unanimous as to all liability findings for (1) wrongful termination in violation of public policy, (2) violation of labor code sections 6310 and 6311, and (3) violation of labor code section 1102.5(c).
- Attorney for the Plaintiff: Bohm Law Group by Lawrance A. Bohm, SacramentoLaw Office of Erika M. Gaspar by Erika M. Gaspar, SacramentoLaw Offices of Gregory R. Davenport by Gregory R. Davenport, Stockton
- Attorney for the Defendant: Holden Law Group by Kimberley Ann Worley and J. Edward Brooks, Auburn
- Plaintiff's Technical Experts: Charles Mahla, Ph.D., economics, SacramentoJan Null, CCM, meteorology, San FranciscoJohn Cargile, trucking safety, Grass Valley
- Defendant's Technical Experts: Craig Enos, C.P.A., FolsomPaul Herbert, C.P.S.A., trucking safety, Quincy
Facts and Background
- Facts and Background:
Plaintiff worked as a hazardous materials (fuel) tanker-truck driver for Ramos Oil Company, headquartered in West Sacramento in Yolo County. Ramos Oil Company has a fleet of approximately 40‐50 tanker trucks which are used to deliver fuel in Northern California and to Carson City, Nevada. Mr. Webb had worked for the company 13 years when he was terminated on January 7, 2008.
On Friday, January 4, 2008, the Sacramento valley experienced a severe storm with winds at 60 to 70 miles an hour, heavy rainfall and flooding. Due to the severity of the storm, Sacramento and all surrounding areas experienced highway closures and over 350,000 power outages.
- Plaintiff's Contentions:
That plaintiff worked his delivery shift from 3:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. during the storm on January 4, 2008.
That during his deliveries of combustible and flammable fuels, plaintiff experienced heavy winds that caused his truck to rock and created a fear of tipping. Plaintiff saw flying debris, downed power lines and cars swerving back and forth along different portions of his route.
That during fueling, plaintiff struggled against strong winds and rains in the hooking up and managing of the heavy hoses and fittings. While on the road, plaintiff heard news reports advising that CHP was telling commercial vehicles to stay off the roads. He also heard other fuel companies were calling their drivers in for the day due to the severe and dangerous weather conditions.
That at one of plaintiff’s first deliveries, a power line snapped and hit the driver’s mirror of his vehicle, creating a flurry of sparks. Shaken, plaintiff called in to dispatch complaining it was too dangerous to be driving a hazardous materials truck in the severe weather and asked to return to the yard.
That plaintiff was denied permission to return and was instead instructed to continue his route. That plaintiff was waived off of another delivery because the customer stated it was too dangerous to fuel. Throughout the morning, plaintiff made other calls in to dispatch complaining that it was too dangerous to make deliveries. Each time plaintiff was told to continue with his deliveries.
That at the end of his 8-hour shift, plaintiff returned to the truck yard and complained one more time to dispatch and the Transportation Manager that it was just too dangerous to be sending trucks out in the severe weather. Plaintiff was told to
clock out and go home.
That over three hours later, while having beers with his wife and friends at Bob’s Bar in Elk Grove, plaintiff received the first of three calls from Ramos Oil Company instructing him to come back to work. Plaintiff informed dispatch that he could not come back to work because he had been drinking beer and that the weather conditions were too unsafe. Plaintiff indicated he would be willing to come in the next morning to make deliveries. The other two calls came from his supervisor, the Transportation Manager, who demanded plaintiff return to work even though he had been drinking. Plaintiff was told to “get his ass back to work or else.” That plaintiff was told if he did not return on January 4, he should show up at 9:00 a.m. the following Monday, instead of his regular start time at 3:00 a.m., and that this was a direct order from the Ramos Oil Company President. That plaintiff was fired the morning of January 7, 2008.
That after his termination by Ramos Oil Company, Mr. Webb
eventually found new employment hauling infectious waste for medical offices, coroners, animal clinics and other similar businesses.
- Defendant's Contentions:
That plaintiff concocted a series of events to keep from having to work on the day of the storm, including falsely claiming a power line had snapped, making unreasonable complaints about
the weather while out on the route, and later lying about having been drinking. That plaintiff had failed to complete his deliveries on January 4.
Demands and Offers
- Plaintiff §998 Demand: $275,000 (June 16, 2010)
- Defendant §998 Offer: $100,000 (November 14, 2011)