Woman gravely injured by unsecured UHaul load awarded $15M in lawsuit

  1. This brave young woman lives very close to me and I feel she deserves this money.


    Maria Federici awarded $15.5 million in case against U-Haul


    Story Published: Nov 9, 2007 at 4:42 PM PST
    Story Updated: Nov 9, 2007 at 10:19 PM PST

    By KOMO Staff & News Services

    SEATTLE (AP) - A King County jury has awarded $15.5 million to a Renton woman who was disfigured and blinded in February 2004 when part of an entertainment center flew from a rented U-Haul trailer and crashed through her windshield.

    Maria Federici's lawyers had sought $38 million in damages.

    Jurors found U-Haul most liable, ordering it to pay two-thirds of the award, and said the driver who was towing the entertainment center, James Hefley, should pay the rest.

    The verdict cleared Capron Holdings Inc., the owner of the Bellevue Texaco station from which Hefley rented the trailer, of blame.

    The board that sailed through Federici's windshield as she drove on Interstate 405 in the suburbs east of Seattle crushed her face, leaving her blind and brain-damaged. Her attorneys argued there was no way to secure loads safely on the trailers, and that even though other accidents had been reported, U-Haul took no corrective action.

    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.

    Attorneys for Capron and U-Haul tried to put the blame on Hefley, who, they said, simply did not properly secure the entertainment center. They also suggested Federici was tailgating and that her reactions may have been slowed by a glass of wine.

    "We feel the trailer in question was safe. There are thousands out there on the road being used every day. In fact, this particular trailer had almost 9,000 transactions with almost no incidents," said Carl Gilmore, attorney for U-Haul.

    The jury disagreed, assigning zero liability to Federici.

    Federici's attorney Bill Leedom said the money should be enough to take care of Federici for the rest of her life.

    "We think it's a reasonable level, certainly could have been higher, could have been lower. But we leave that up to the jury. Lawyers only make suggestions. And I don't think any of us would trade places with maria for $38 million or a billion dollars," Leedom said.

    "It was a complete relief. It really was," Federici said. "I can have a house, a place to live, pick up where I left off three and a half years ago, same things that I always used to do."

    "(I felt) relief for my daughter. She'll have some quality of life, independence," said Federici's mother, Robin Abel.

    But what Federici's family really wants is for U-Haul to take another look at the design of their trailer, which they believe to be unsafe.

    "It doesn't make these glass eyes see or give me my sense of smell. None of those things will disappear," she said.

    "It was never about the money," Abel added.

    A lawyer for U-Haul expressed disappointment in the verdict.

    "We were disappointed that a lot of the evidence was not allowed to go to the jury. Some of the evidence was prejudice against U-Haul," Gilmore said. "U-haul will have to consider its options, including an appeal."

    Leedom said he fully expects that appeal to be filed, but said he is confident that their evidence will stand up to the appeal.

    The trial lasted six weeks in King County Superior Court. Federici told jurors she has limited feeling on her left side, can't smell anything, is unable to open her jaw more than a fraction of an inch and lives with chronic pain.

    U-Haul said they planned to appeal Friday's decision. Federici's lawyer said they are prepared to fight the case to the end.

    Click below to see a photo of what Maria looked like before this tragedy and to read about how her accident has gone on to change the law in Washington State relating to unsecured loads on highways:


  2. OMG how awful. That poor woman!

    I rented a U-haul to move and had to tow my car behind it. They gave me no other guidance on how to secure the car other than a pamphlet. I told the guys at the U-haul place that I cannot drive the thing with my car behind it myself and needed to wait for the guy who would be driving. They didn't care. They just said I had to have it out of there by 4 p.m.

    When we took the 600 mile trip we discovered that the straps that hold the car onto the trailer do NOT stay secured. At one point we were literally driving with the car just sitting with the two wheels up on the trailer and NOTHING holding it on. It was scary. After discovering that we stopped frequently and tightened the straps, but they never stayed secure. And U-haul didn't give a damn when I turned it back in either and told them about it.
  3. Thank you for posting this!
  4. She's a miracle and I agree with your post.
  5. I have thought VERY DIFFERENTLY about hauling things in my car and also about moving since this woman's story became publicized. It is simply NOT WORTH IT to try to haul things on the roads anymore these days. I would rather spend money for movers rather to endanger my life or someone else's.

    Miss Federici's story is one of THOUSANDS that involve people who are killed or seriously injured by unsecured loads. Many people are negligent, yes, but many are simply naive and don't understand how to properly secure things they are moving.
  6. ^I almost got into three accidents from boxes and other random large objects falling off of truck beds! It's absolutely ridiculous how ignorant people are when it comes to securing dangerous objects on their moving vehicles. It boggles my mind!

    To be honest, I think she deserves much much more than $15 million. Not only is she disfigured, but she's now BLIND. She deserves at least double that.
  7. She deserved the whole $38.8 million.....
  8. I know the decision will be appealed, and the case can drag on for years. But Maria deserve the money to take care of her for the rest of her life. U-Haul should pay the money, but I dunno how that bum driver is gonna pay though. He has a suspended license and no insurance.
  9. I keep coming back to this horrible story. It really is so disturbing and upsetting. I do think she deserves a lot more money than what she got. Her life is forever changed. I can't fathom what she has to endure. It makes us all appreciate how lucky we are. The rules of the road NEED TO CHANGE. How many more accidents like this, will it take to make the roads safe. Doubt it will happen in our lifetime. Thanks again for sharing this story. My prayers are always with this women and her family.
  10. After hearing the horror stories from my Mom, back when she was young and worked in an emergency room, about items flying off the back of trucks and cars and seriously injuring people (one man came in with a log in his chest, from where a giant logging truck had lost a piece of its load and it had run straight through the following car's windshield and into the man's chest), I think it's about damn time someone got sued.

    Has anyone ever seen those dipsh*** that ride down the road trying to hold a mattress on the top of their car with one hand? What idiots, like your hand is going to stop the giant flying mattress.
  11. God help us all! It doesn't matter how defensive we drive... Poor, poor woman!!!
  12. God bless that poor woman. She deserves every penny.

    People really need to be more careful when U-Hauls are involved.
  13. I live in Seattle where the accident occurred. IMHO, it seems like common sense to secure/cover a load in the back of a trailer or truck. So, I'm not sure about holding UHaul accountable for so much. But day after day, I see this continue...even after the accident and publicity. I would estimate that at least 50% of the people don't secure or cover their loads, even though there is a law. And I have seen cops drive right by, without a glance.
  14. Wow. I just did not hear about this until now and it has me teary eyed. That is just horrible.
  15. That is just tragic. It just amazes me how retarded some of these people are. Seeing washing machines, refrigerators fly off of truck beds at the expense of innocent people. This is why I never like to drive behind any truck.

    Maria deserves every cent even though it will be appealed. U-haul and that numbskull of a driver should be held liable for every penny. It makes me wonder how many other incidents don't get reported. How many near-misses are there??