Skip to comments.Trailer builder, driver sued by survivors of fatal smuggling attempt (Texas)
Posted on 08/03/2005 9:28:51 AM PDT by SwinneySwitch
Lawsuits seeking millions in damages have been filed in federal court in Victoria by survivors of seven illegal immigrants who died in Victoria County's infamous 2003 human-smuggling case.
The suits allege that the Savanna, Ga.-based Great Dane trailers, manufacturer of the trailer in which the immigrants rode during their ill-fated journey from the Mexican border, failed to install escape latches inside the fully insulated refrigerator trailer, which had no ventilation system.
The oversight left the trapped occupants with no access to fresh air, no means of escape, and placed them in danger of suffocation and death, the suits claim.
The suits describe the trailer as "dangerous," "defectively manufactured" and lacking warning decals or other precautions to prevent injuries to loading-dock workers or others who might become trapped inside.
Also named as defendants in the suits are Tyrone Williams, driver of the tractor-trailer rig that carried the immigrants; Salem Truck Leasing, a trucking company identified as the owner of the trailer; and unknown members of a human smuggling ring, identified in the suit only as John and Jane Does.
None of the defendants had filed responses to the suits with the court as of Tuesday.
The suits - labeled as product liability, wrongful death and negligence suits - were filed by the Montebello, Calif., law firm of Moreno, Becerra, Guerrero and Casillas.
Each suit seeks a minimum of $1.4 million in damages from the various defendants, plus funeral expenses, attorney fees and any additional monetary award the court may deem appropriate.
Attorneys for the survivors are seeking a jury trial.
Victoria Federal Judge John D. Rainey has scheduled pre-trial hearings on the various cases for Sept. 6, Sept. 19 and Oct. 11 at the Martin Luther King Jr. Federal Building in downtown Victoria.
The suits were filed on behalf of the wives, children and parents of victims Ricardo Gonzales Mata of Mexico, Serafin Rivera Gamez of Mexico, Hector Ramirez Robles of Mexico, Robert Rivera Gamez of Mexico, Edgar Gabriel Hernandez-Zuniga of Mexico, Oscar Gonzalez Guerrero of Mexico, Ricardo Gonzales Mata of Mexico and Jose Felicito Fugueroa of Honduras.
On May 14, 2003, according to the suits, Williams, a Jamaican living in New York, had driven his Houston-bound human cargo of approximately 70 from Harlingen for hours in desert-high heat before he noticed that a taillight on the trailer had been knocked out and a handkerchief was being waved from the opening.
The suits allege that the driver then pulled the tractor-trailer over - on Victoria County's Fleming Prairie Road near its intersection with U.S. Highway 77, near the Speedy Stop truck stop - and opened the trailer's doors. Finding many of the immigrants collapsed from asphyxiation and heat stroke, Williams disconnected the trailer and fled, according to the suits.
Nineteen perished in the incident, which has been described as the deadliest human smuggling attempt in U.S. history.
Williams has since been convicted of smuggling and faces a life sentence. He is one of 14 defendants. Two others have been convicted of smuggling charges and are also awaiting sentencing.
The Moreno, Becerra, Guerrero and Casillas law firm, according to its Web site, is handling immigrant civil rights cases across the country, including litigation against the U.S. government for the death of immigrants at the hands of Border Patrol agents.
It is also preparing a lawsuit against Arizona militia and vigilante groups that it says have been making illegal arrests and using excessive force against undocumented immigrants.
The firm says it also represents the families of several immigrants who died in the collapse of the Twin Towers in New York.
Greg Bowen is a reporter for the Advocate. Contact him at 361-580-6519 or email@example.com
Hope they get it!
"It is also preparing a lawsuit against Arizona militia and vigilante groups that it says have been making illegal arrests and using excessive force against undocumented immigrants."
Bring it on!
Was it Dewy, Cheatum, Phukus & Howe?
Better put warning labels on garbage trucks so they are not confused with a tour bus.
This was NOT the trailer manufactures fault. The smugglers should have bought the right model. "The Illegal Alien Smugglers" model would have been the right choice.
I want to be on that jury. Where do I apply?
Next we'll be seeing lawsuits from the families of suicide bombers against the places that they blew up.
They should have used a livestock trailer. Plenty of ventilation in those! Plus they have a nice distinctive ambience.
I'm sure the illegals would have read the labels and decided that it wasn't a good idea to try to sneak into the U.S.
Nope! Just the brothers-in-law --Swindel and Cheetum....
A lawsuit, by claimants, against a manufacturer aledging poor construction leading to death of the claimants' relatives?
This for a product that was never intended to carry people!!!
Sounds pretty silly to me. Next thing you know, people will try to sue gun companies, not because the products don't work properly, but because criminals use the product for something it is not intended!!!!
Gee - no escape hatches/latches. However, if someone had not locked them in from the outside, they could have just pushed the door open.
So they're sneaking into the country illegally, and this trailer company is somehow responsible for their deaths? Beyond the pale.
Correct me if I got something wrong here....
And some attorney took this case. And attorneys wonder why people don't think much of the profession.
Now that is one dumb idea! How many puerto ricans who are now gainfully employed riding the puerto rican trolly car to work would you put out of work.
"lacking warning decals.."
No doubt those will need to be in both English and Spanish too, right?
"And some attorney took this case.."
Took this case? My guess is some attorney drummed up this case.
"Not intended for use by those illegally entering the USA. Asphyxiation may occur if locked from the outside. Not intended for use as a human smuggling device or medium."
What a stupid lawsuit. And I'm going to be even more pissed off when they win the case.
The ther mis "Beyond the Pall"
A large cloth, esp., a heavy black cloth, thrown over a coffin at a funeral; sometimes, also, over a tomb. [1913 Webster]
n 1: a sudden numbing dread [syn: chill] 2: burial garment in which a corpse is wrapped [syn: shroud, cerement, winding-sheet, winding-clothes] 3: hanging cloth used as a blind (especially for a window) [syn: curtain, drape, drapery, mantle] v 1: become less interesting or attractive [syn: dull] 2: cause to lose courage; "dashed by the refusal" [syn: daunt, dash, scare off, frighten off, scare away, frighten away, scare]
Not picking on you, everyone uses it incorrectly.
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