A trucking accident on September 20, 1994 on the Capital Beltway in Prince George’s County, Maryland killed one person and left construction worker Brian Buber paralyzed. The subsequent fight over payment of damages shows how difficult it can be to enforce judgments against corporations and other business entities.
On that day in 1994, a tractor-trailer owned by Gunther’s Leasing Transport crashed into a small rental truck. The two vehicles then hit an asphalt-rolling machine in the construction area where Buber was working. The tractor-trailer jackknifed and caught fire. The truck’s passenger, Keith Briscoe, Jr., died in the crash, while the driver was injured. Buber was thrown through the air and suffered head injuries. He reportedly spent hours in surgery as doctors tried to remove fragments of skull from his brain.
Buber still suffers from brain damage, remains confined to a wheelchair and spends twenty hours a day in bed at a nursing home in Harford County. According to the Baltimore Sun, he cannot speak. He communicates by pointing to letters on a laminated card to spell out words. He relies on Social Security and workers’ compensation for support. His mother took care of him until her death in 2009, and now his sister looks after him when she can. Buber’s medical costs exceeded $1 million, and Gunther’s Leasing Transport reportedly had at least $1 million in liability coverage. Buber never saw any money from Gunther, though.
Buber , the family of Keith Brsicoe, Jr., and others brought a lawsuit against Gunther’s Leasing Transport. A jury rendered a verdict for the plaintiffs in 1997, awarding almost $16 million to the plaintiffs. Of that amount, the jury earmarked $13 million for Buber’s medical expenses and ongoing care. The company’s insurance paid the $1 million policy limits amount, but that was divided between the six plaintiffs and did not offer much help towards Buber’s mounting expenses.
Within weeks, Gunther’s Leasing Transport filed for bankruptcy reorganization. It reportedly listed $9 million in assets and $17.5 million in liabilities, most of which was the court judgment. At the time, it also faced an FBI investigation. Mark David Gunther, owner of Gunther’s Leasing Transport, was sentenced to thirty months in prison by a Baltimore federal jury for forging drivers’ logs. A bankruptcy judge approved a reorganization plan for the company that included payments to Buber and the other plaintiffs, but by 2001 the company was so far behind on payments that the IRS had the case converted to a liquidation.