MOUNT PLEASANT TOWNSHIP, WESTMORELAND COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — A law firm is now in the middle of a big lawsuit surrounding last year’s deadly Pennsylvania Turnpike crash.
That lawsuit claims a FedEx driver was responsible for the crash because he was wearing headphones and could not hear warnings to prevent the crash.
This was the scene on January 5, 2020, on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, just 30 miles east of Pittsburgh.
Five people were killed and 60 injured in the multi-vehicle pileup. But a lawsuit alleges the crash was significantly more severe because the driver of a FedEx truck was wearing noise-canceling headphones that prevented him from hearing warning alarms.
“These weren’t air pods or small things. These were big DJ-type of headphones that the driver was wearing, and had the driver heard these alerts, assuming the system was working and functioning properly, he would have heard the alerts, he would have plenty of time to stop prior to striking the bus, and nobody would have died,” said Attorney Ed Ciarimboli, of Fellerman & Ciarimboli Law PC of Kingston.
Ciarimboli filed the 91-page lawsuit, which claims Brandon Stowers was wearing the headphones when he hit an overturned tour bus. Attorney Ciarimboli contents if Stowers had heard his truck’s collision alarm system, the accident could have been avoided.
“We’ve put a request for what’s called equitable relief, and it’s a specific request aimed at FedEx where we’re asking them to, if they don’t have a policy regarding their drivers driving with noise-canceling headphones, then they have to immediately put a policy in effect to prevent that. And if they do have a policy, then they have a systemic problem at FedEx ground where they are not enforcing this particular policy,” Ciarimboli said.
FedEx has been sued before over this same issue.
A company statement says:
“There is no higher priority for FedEx than safety, and our thoughts and condolences remain with the individuals and families of those involved in this tragic accident. The allegations against FedEx Ground and Mr. Stowers are without merit and we intend to defend our position should this matter proceed.”
Pennsylvania state law is clear about wearing headphones while driving.
“In Pennsylvania, you cannot wear a headphone on each ear while you’re operating a motor vehicle. That’s what’s called a primary violation. You could be pulled over for that. And the reason why is, if you have two headphones on, you can’t hear what’s going on around you. You can’t hear sirens of police officers, ambulances, you can’t hear what’s going on, so it kind of takes you away from your primary goal of getting from Point A to Point B safely,” Trooper Anthony Petroski said.
This lawsuit would have an impact on other companies as well. The National Transportation Safety Board has been investigating the crash since it happened and is expected to release a detailed final report soon.