Alaska Supreme Court affirms decision in case of truck collision that caused oil spill

By Sandra Lane | Sep 7, 2018

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Legal Newsline) – On Aug. 24, Alaska Supreme Court Justice Daniel E. Winfree upheld the ruling of the state's Third Judicial District Superior Court concerning a lawsuit in which an insurance company sued a trucking company for $3.5 million paid for oil spill remediation.

“Seeing no reversible error, we affirm the Superior Court’s entry of final judgment,” Winfree wrote.

The jury had said that there was no negligence on the part of the defendant trucking company. 

This legal action was filed by HDI Gerling Insurance Co. against Carlile Transportation Systems to recover $3.5 million in oil spill remediation costs paid on behalf of its client, Eggor Enterprises. The claim arose when the driver of one of Eggor’s trucks hit another truck owned by Carlile in 2014.

The ruling states the driver of Carlisle’s truck had stopped in the middle of an icy road to put chains on his tires. Although he had activated the flasher lights on his truck, he had not put out fluorescent triangles in the road to alert other drivers. As a result of the collision, Eggor’s truck turned over, releasing large amounts of fuel alongside the road. Eggor said that the failure of Carlile’s driver to put out warning triangles was the primary cause of the accident.

At the conclusion of the trial in a lower court, the jury said that Carlile’s driver was not negligent and ruled in Carlile’s favor. In response, the insurance company appealed the decision to the Alaska Supreme Court.

“First, as to the failure to deploy triangles, we already have concluded that a reasonable jury would have found that Carlile’s actions were excused based on the evidence presented at trial," the ruling states. "The Superior Court did not abuse its discretion by refusing a new trial based on this point.

“Second, as to the allegation that no flashers were used, there was ample testimony supporting the jury verdict. (Carlile’s driver) testified that he used flashers. ... A responder from Prudhoe Bay also testified that (Eggor’s driver) said he saw lights in the distance and thought they were pickup trucks with their flashers on. Photographs taken at the scene suggested that the flashers were on,” the ruling states.

The Superior Court denied HDI’s motion for a new trial and entered judgment for Carlile. This ruling was upheld by the Alaska Supreme Court as announced by Winfree. Other members of the Supreme Court reviewing the case included Justices Craig Stowers, Peter Maassen, Joel Bolger and Susan Carney.

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