Victim’s Family Receives $5 Million Dollar Settlement

Matt Engen, driving a 2007 Volvo tractor-trailer for W.W. Transport on U.S. Highway 36 in Macon County, failed to notice slowing traffic and rear-ended the 2001 Ford van in front of him, causing fatal injuries to its driver. The driver’s widow sued Engen and his employer, W.W. Transport for wrongful death.

The speed limit was 65 mph, but an accident a few miles ahead caused traffic to back up. The van was moving slowly or nearly stopped when Engen’s tractor-trailer struck its rear. The van then struck the vehicle in front of it, overturned and caught fire. It’s driver was pronounced dead on the scene. Pathologists opined that he died from fire-related causes.

W.W. Transport alleged that the fire was caused by the defective placement of a fuel tank in the van. It’s driver, a dog breeder, had a Ford dealer modify a new van to extend the cargo base and install a generator in the vehicle. He wanted the modifications for separate heating and cooling in the cargo area so the van could be used to transport dogs across the country. A second fuel tank, needed to power the generator, was installed in the crush zone in the back of the vehicle. When Engen’s vehicle struck the rear of the van, the van exploded and caught fire.

In return for payment of the $5 million policy limits settlement, the driver’s family gave W.W. Transport the right to seek contribution from the various parties involved in the modification of the van. At the time of the settlement, the parties had already conducted extensive discovery, which supported the third-party claims against the strict liability defendants.

W.W. Transport and Engen filed a Third-Party Complaint against Gem City Ford Inc. and Rick’s Transit Repair Inc., both based in Quincy, Illinois, on June 5, 2008, and their contribution/indemnification claims are still pending.

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Wrongful Death/Collision Semi-Tractor Trailer


United States District Court, Eastern District of Missouri, Eastern Division

$5 Million Dollars

Jay Benson
The Benson Law Firm LLC, Kirksville, MO

Tim E. Dollar
Dollar, Burns & Becker, L.C., Kansas City, MO

R.C. Wuestling
Wuestling & James, L.C., St. Louis, MO