Macon County Chronicle

Unregistered Contractor Cited After Deadly 2010 Wreck: $50 Million Lawsuit Filed by Families

Over six months after a two-vehicle collision killed two Macon County migrant workers and injured seven others, at the intersection of Highway 10 North and Cold Springs Road, the U.S. Department of Labor has cited Carmen Maria Santos for operating as a farm labor contractor without registering with the department, in violation of the Migrant & Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act, according to a recent report.

As you may recall on Tuesday afternoon, September 28th, 2010, sixty-year-old Jackie Gann, of Lafayette, who was behind the wheel of a southbound 2004 Freightliner tractor trailer, had just rounded the curve on the Scottsville Road, when a northbound 1997 Ford ECZ van, that was attempting to turn left, drove directly into the path of his truck hitting him head-on, killing the driver, 37-year-old Iuaguin Feria, who caused the accident, and one of the eight other passengers instantly. Three were airlifted from the scene, four transported to Macon County General Hospital by the EMS, where two more were also airlifted, and two were pronounced dead at the crash site. Gann was treated at Macon County General Hospital and released but as a direct result of the negligence of Feria, he suffered severe, painful, debilitating and permanent injuries and severe emotional distress.

According to the Labor Dept., investigators found that the van’s driver lacked a valid driver’s license and the original seats in the van had been replaced with wooden benches that weren’t attached, which resulted in the severity of the injuries the passengers sustained. It was also discovered that Santos had failed to register the van driver as an employee, the van lacked prescribed insurance coverage to transport workers, and there were no accurate records kept.

“The Labor Department requires farm labor contractors to register with the department specifically to prevent tragedies such as this one,” said Nettie Lewis, acting district director of the Wage and Hour Division in Nashville. “This loss of life might not have occurred if farmers had made sure that they were employing an authorized contractor who was transporting workers in a safe vehicle operated by a properly licensed driver. And we have assesses Santos $12,975 in penalties for the violations.”

Since the crash, many have initiated lawsuits including Jackie Gann for the negligent acts committed by the deceased driver, and several family members of the migrant workers have filed frivolous allegations against Mr. Gann.

“I am representing Jackie Gann and his wife, Francis,” said Attorney Robert Lee Whitaker, of Brentwood, Tn., “for their personal injuries and spousal lose of consortium arising out of a horrific head on collision that occurred in Lafayette on September 28th, of 2010. A lawsuit has been filed on behalf of my clients against the estate of Iuaguin Feria who was operating a van filled with Hispanic laborers and caused the collision. He died as the result. Mr. Gann is being personally sued for $50,000,000.00 and the plaintiffs’ claims against my client are utterly without merit. For whatever reason, Mr. Feria was not named as a Defendant by the other occupants of the van.”

“Mr. Gann has separate defense counsel to represent him in the lawsuit filed against him,” the attorney noted, “and frankly I was shocked by the allegations filed against Mr. Gann. I view these claims as frivolous and am advising the lawyers representing the Hispanic laborers that they must withdraw their Complaint or face potential sanctions.”

When contacted by telephone on Monday afternoon, April 4th, Mr. Gann stated that the Van involved in the accident was insured through Tooley & Carver with two policies, but he had not received anything for his tractor trailer or damages. “My own personal insurance paid $15,000 for my truck, which was actually worth $26,000.”

A court date hasn’t been set yet, as the attorneys are attempting to have the case moved from Memphis (where Intermodal Cartage Company, Inc. is based) to Lafayette.