Pregnant passenger sues sleepy driver after fiery crash

Marilyn Tennissen Apr. 18, 2007, 12:00pm

The Interstate 10 overpass at Old Highway 90 where a March crash occurred.

A fiery truck crash on I-10 last month that caused a pregnant woman to lose her baby has landed both the driver and the truck company in a legal dispute.

On March 19, Paula Aguilar of Fayette County was a passenger in a tractor trailer rig owned by Ashley Aluminum and driven by Paul Newman Carpenter of Florida. Around 5 a.m., the truck was on the Interstate 10 overpass at Old Highway 90 in Vidor when Carpenter allegedly fell asleep at the wheel.

The 18-wheeler hit a guardrail on the overpass and flipped onto the road below, bursting into flames.

Paula Aguilar was transported to the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston with severe burns, multiple fractures and spinal injuries. She was still hospitalized at the time the suit was filed.

Paula Aguilar was 18 weeks pregnant at the time of the wreck, and the unborn baby died after being delivered by emergency Caesarean section.

Paula's mother, Laura Aguilar, acting on behalf of her incapacitated daughter, and the father of the baby Kevin Henderson, also of Fayette County, filed a lawsuit April 12 in Orange County District Court, where the wreck occurred. The suit names Carpenter and Ashley Aluminum as defendants.

The plaintiffs are seeking damages in excess of $50,000.

The suit alleges that Carpenter's actions constituted negligence because he failed to apply brakes, keep proper lookout, control speed, avoid collision and drive the vehicle in a single lane.

Regarding Ashley Aluminum, plaintiffs say "evidence will show defendants were aware of the risk of allowing a sleep-deprived driver to operate a tractor trailer on a Texas highway, and defendant proceeded with conscious indifference to duty owed to plaintiff and other individuals on the roadways."

The original petition also states that Ashley Aluminum should have known that Carpenter was an incompetent and unqualified driver.

Plaintiffs are seeking damages for physical pain, mental anguish, medical expenses, impairment, disfigurement, loss of earning capacity and loss of companionship. They are also seeking exemplary damages.

Frederick McGuire of Houston is representing the plaintiffs.

The case has been assigned to 128th District Court in Orange County.

Case No. A070184-C

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