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Truckers Call for Boycott of Colorado

Editorial note: Shortly before the newsletter went to press, Colorado’s governor, Jared Polis, commuted Rogel Aguilera-Mederos’ sentence from 110 years to 10 years. The clemency was announced as part of the governor’s yearly clemency action.

Truck drivers across the nation are calling for a boycott on driving loads to and from Colorado. This is in response to the recent 110 year sentence that was handed down to Rogel Aguilera-Mederos, a truck driver involved in a multiple vehicle/fatality accident that occurred on April 25, 2019 in Lakewood, Colorado. Four people died as a result of the accident, and leaving several others injured.

Aguilera-Mederos (who was 23 years old at the time of the accident) was convicted of 27 counts, including four counts vehicular homicide, arising out of the accident. During trial, Aguilera-Mederos testified that the load was his first solo trip as a driver and that he had minimal experience driving in the mountains. Approximately 40 minutes before impact, he testified he spoke with his boss and expressed concerns about the brakes on the truck but that his boss had told him it was ok. As Aguilera-Mederos headed down the foothills on eastbound I-70, he lost his brakes and struggled to get his flatbed truck loaded with lumber into gear. The traffic ahead of him was already at a standstill due to a different accident. At this point, he testified he had two options: driving into the grass median or crashing into the bridge, which would have resulted in a significant accident either way. He further testified that he saw the first two of the four signs for a runway truck ramp but did not see the last two as he neared the ramp. Ultimately, he chose the latter and drove on the shoulder, but then testified he had to take evasive maneuvers because there was already another semi-truck parked underneath the bridge. He then chose to hit the trailer, hoping to slow his truck down. However, the impact was insufficient to significantly slow his truck, resulting in a huge fire that damaged or destroyed 28 vehicles. More importantly, four people died as a result.

Several news outlets reported that the accident occurred on a stretch of the freeway that limited commercial vehicles to 45 mph because of a steep descent. It was further noted that there were several posted signs regarding speed and using lower gears for commercial drivers leading up to the accident location.

After Aguilera-Mederos received his sentence of 110 years, truck drivers began calling for a boycott to Colorado, using hashtags such as #NoTrucksToColorado and #NoTrucksColorado. Truck drivers expressed concern that the series of events that led to Aguilera-Mederos’ conviction and sentence could easily happen to them. Trucking associations also expressed shock at the sentence handed down to Aguilera-Mederos, especially given that the judge specifically noted during the sentencing that Aguilera-Mederos lacked intent to hurt people. Moreover, nearly 5 million people signed a petition on change.org for Aguilera-Mederos to either have his sentenced commutated as time served or be granted clemency.

Following this outrage and disbelief, the district attorney moved to have Aguilera-Mederos re-sentenced, and indicated that her office would likely recommend a sentence of 20 to 30 years. A hearing is set for January 13, 2022.

Notwithstanding the loss of human life and the criminal case involving Aguilera-Mederos arising out of the accident, not much has been reported about any civil lawsuits. In the wake of the Astroworld tragedy, various news media outlets reported on the several lawsuits filed soon thereafter in Texas. The same state in which a jury recently rendered a $301 billion verdict against a sports bar that overserved a suspect, who subsequently drove at a high rate of speed, ran a red light, and then crashed into car driven by a grandmother with her 16 year old granddaughter. Perhaps not much has been reported as Colorado has a limit on the recoverability of non-economic damages in civil lawsuits. Currently, the limit is $613,760, which can go up to $1,227,530 based upon clear and convincing evidence (but not for derivative non-economic claims).

Jaion Chung

Email: jchung@pooleshaffery.com

Phone:

Los Angeles: 213-439-5390

Orange County: 714-790-6717