Former trooper sues trucking company over vehicle crash

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A former trooper with the Wyoming Highway Patrol is suing the owner of a food delivery truck that turned in front of his patrol car and caused a head-on crash in 2015.

In a complaint filed in Wyoming’s federal court last week, former trooper Rodney Miears and his wife Marian, of Cody, seek compensation from Sysco Montana for the injuries the trooper sustained in the collision.

“Defendant Sysco, via its driver, was in violation of safe driving practices,” says a portion of the suit, filed by Cody attorneys Laurence Stinson and Tom Keegan.

The legal complaint alleges that Sysco negligently failed to “keep, maintain, enforce and follow safe driving practices and safe driving policies,” including in failing to properly supervise and train truck driver James Friede.

Sysco has not yet filed a response to the suit and the company did not respond to emails sent to its media relations staff.

On June 15, 2015, Friede had been attempting to make a delivery to the Yellowstone Valley Inn on U.S. Highway 14/16/20, in the Wapiti area. According to law enforcement accounts of the crash, Friede never saw Miears coming; the westbound truck made a left-hand turn into the inn, pulling directly in front of Miears’ eastbound patrol car.

“I thought to myself, ‘Surely he has to see me and will stop,’” Miears later recounted in a release from the Wyoming Department of Transportation. “As I got close to the business entrance, I realized the driver of the semi-truck [Friede] did not see me coming, and that is when I decided it was time to slam on the brakes and prepare for what I thought could be the worst thing that could ever happen to me and my family.”

In the ensuing collision, Miears was pinned into his vehicle and suffered injuries to his back and spine.

The Wyoming Highway Patrol cited Friede for failing to yield to approaching traffic while making a left-hand turn and he paid $65 for the offense. He is not named as a defendant in the recently filed suit.

Miears returned to full duty in early 2016, but the nine-year veteran of the department retired as a trooper last August due to the injuries he’d sustained.

According to last week’s lawsuit, Miears was deemed to be medically disabled and continues to suffer from debilitating pain. The suit says Miears “cannot engage in the normal activities of life — such as standing, sitting, picking up a child or routine household activities — without pain, discomfort and frustration.”

The Miears’ suit contends that Sysco is liable for Friede’s driving, alleging that he negligently rushed to make the turn, failed to look for oncoming traffic and to properly control the tractor-trailer.

The trucks “require special training and safety to operate,” often weighing 80,000 pounds, according to the suit, adding that, “For purposes of comparison, a tomahawk missile weighs 2,900 to 3,500 pounds.”

The suit does not say what amount of money the Miearses are seeking, but it’s more than the $75,000 minimum required for the U.S. District Court to have jurisdiction.

In addition to seeking compensation for the pain and suffering, past and future loss of enjoyment of life, lost wages and disabilities, the suit also seeks punitive damages, alleging Sysco’s actions were “willful, wanton and in reckless disregard for the safety and wellbeing” of Miears.

The case is proceeding in federal court rather than a state district court because the dispute involves parties in two different states — the Miearses in Wyoming and Sysco Montana in Billings.

While Miears is no longer a trooper, he’s continuing to work for the patrol as the agency’s tow recovery program coordinator.

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