On the July 4th weekend in 2002, Christina Chakonas and Diana Kakidas had plans. They were going to watch the fireworks, then head to a dance club. No drugs, no alcohol, just have some fun. Their group met a group of boys and one of the boys, Adam McDonald, got into Christina’s car for the drive to the club. They were following the other group’s car, but as they pulled onto rural U.S. 30, Christina’s Grand Am was struck by a tractor-trailer. All three died.
Initially, it seemed the collision was entirely Christina’s fault. The truck didn’t have a stop sign, only Christina did. She may not have come to a full stop before pulling out and she may not have had her lights on. But further investigation told another part of the story. The truck driver had driven more hours than safety regulations allow. The “black box” on the truck showed he was speeding. A reconstruction of the collision indicated the driver didn’t hit his brakes until 3 seconds after he slammed into the Grand Am. Together, this painted a picture of a truck driver who was profoundly tired - and not paying attention.
The teens’ families brought suit against the shipper, the driver, and the driver’s trucking company. Lawyers for the teens presented evidence of the collision. They presented evidence that the trucking company should have known the driver wasn’t safe because he had a history of falsifying his driving logs, something the company should have been aware of. The defendants presented evidence of Christina’s fault and argued the black box showed the driver was driving below the speed limit.
On November 2, 2007, a Cook County, Illinois jury decided that the truck driver was 60% responsible for the collision. The jury awarded $8 million to Diana’s and Adam’s families for their losses. The jury valued the loss to Christina’s family at $7 million, but the amount was reduced to $4.2 million because she was 40% responsible.