A King County jury this afternoon awarded $15.5 million to Maria Federici, who was blinded and nearly killed in February 2004 when part...
A King County jury this afternoon awarded $15.5 million to Maria Federici, who was blinded and nearly killed in February 2004 when part of an entertainment center flew from a rented U-Haul trailer and crashed through her windshield.
U-Haul was ordered to pay 67 percent of the total amount and the balance is to be paid by James Hefley, the man who rented the U-Haul trailer.
Jurors did not find the company that rented the trailer to Hefley or Federici liable.
Attorneys for Federici had asked jurors to award the disfigured Renton woman $38 million.
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The accident inspired legislators to pass “Maria’s Law,” which criminalized the failure to secure a load when someone is injured or killed. Before the law took effect in 2005, drivers who lost their loads could be cited only for a traffic infraction with a maximum fine of $250.
Among those who pushed for the new legislation was late King County Prosecutor Norm Maleng. His widow was in the court today when the verdict was read.
After the accident, Federici, 28, sued U-Haul, Hefley, who was towing the trailer on Interstate 405, and Capron Holdings, the owner of the Bellevue service station that rented the trailer. Federici’s attorneys argued that U-Haul knowingly rented a poorly designed trailer that in which loads could not be secured. They said that the trailer could have been made safer with a cargo net or higher tailgates and that U-Haul knew there had a been a number of similar incidents.
Federici’s attorneys also argued that the gas station, Capron Holdings, was negligent in failing to teach customers how to safely secure a load and warn of the danger in failing to do so.
Attorneys for U-Haul and Capron argued that Hefley deserved the lion’s share of the blame and that Federici could be faulted as well. They had argued that a glass of wine she drank before leaving work that night may have impacted her ability to avoid the flying board. They also claimed she had been following Hefley too closely.
Christine Clarridge: 206-464-8983