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Tennessee truck collision causes firm to file Chapter 7 petition

One of the most notable features of the civil court system in the United States is the increasing frequency of so-called "mass tort litigation." One of the most notable mass tort lawsuits has been the claims against miners and users of asbestos, but the mass tort device has been used in many other instances, not all of which have been as big as the universe of asbestos claims filed since the early 1960's. Sometimes, the only defense is the filing of a bankruptcy petition to both stop the lawsuit from going forward and also to liquidate the defendant's assets before judgment can be entered.

This strategy has recently been employed by the owner of a truck that was involved in an especially tragic collision on I-75 near Chattanooga. The accident occurred in June 2015 when a truck operated by Cool Running Express crashed into a work zone and killed six people, including two children. Four others were injured in the 18-vehicle crash. The driver was convicted of various felonies and is now serving a 55-year sentence without the possibility of parole.

The company's Chapter 7 petition lists assets of $101,423 and liabilities of $331.3 million. The petition states that ten lawsuits have been filed against the debtor, all arising from the 2015 crash. The bankruptcy filing seeks dissolution of the debtor and a discharge of all of its debts. Whether the discharge will be allowed may depend on whether the driver's use of methamphetamines prior to the crash will trigger the bar to discharge specified in Sec. 523(a)(9) of the bankruptcy code for death or injury caused because the debtor was intoxicated from using alcohol or another drug.

Many legal issues must be resolved before the trucking company's petition for discharge from the claims arising out of the 2015 collision. Anyone in a similar position may wish to consult an experienced bankruptcy attorney.

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