Jury smacks California trucking company with $70.5 million ‘nuclear verdict’

A California jury awarded a Bakersfield family involved in an August 2017 crash with a trucking company more than $70.5 million in damages on Dec. 19, 2019.

“Nuclear verdicts” are described as jury awards in which penalties exceed $10 million.

According to court documents, Tomasa Cuevas and her two children, Alex and Maritza, were traveling to shop for school clothes when a tractor-trailer driven by Amarjit Aulakh of RAI Transport of Bakersfield, California, allegedly ran a red light and slammed into the family’s SUV on Aug. 14, 2017.

All three survived the crash, but both Tomasa Cuevas and Alex Cuevas sustained traumatic brain injuries, facial and skull fractures. Maritza Cuevas, who was in the back seat, suffered scratches in the crash.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s website, Ajit Singh Rai, doing business as RAI Transport, which operated one truck, had its authority revoked on Oct. 10, 2018. 

Aulakh, the RAI truck driver, was operating with a suspended commercial driver’s license and had been involved in 14 previous crashes, according to news outlet Bakersfield.com.

The law firm Rodriguez & Associates, which represented the Cuevas family, said the $70.5 million verdict “is the highest personal injury verdict in Kern County history.”