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$11M settlement for trucker’s fiery death

By: Phillip Bantz//August 16, 2017

$11M settlement for trucker’s fiery death

By: Phillip Bantz//August 16, 2017

The wife and daughter of a trucker who was burned alive in an explosion after his rig collided with a tanker truck in Orangeburg County have received $11 million to settle a federal wrongful death and survival suit.

The deadly crash was the result of a “stunning display of stupidity” on the part of tanker driver Davis Gullikson, according to Columbia law partners John Fulda and Cheryl Perkins, who represented the estate of Kenneth Avis.

Fulda and Perkins alleged that Gullikson had meth in his system when he backed a fully loaded fuel tanker across a dark stretch of a 55 mph rural roadway, blocking both lanes. At the same time, Avis was approaching from the bottom of a hill in his tractor-trailer, which T-boned the tanker and sparked an explosive flash fire.

“The inferno resulting from the crash was too extensive for multiple local fire departments to bring under control. A nearby Air Force base ultimately responded with massive amounts of foam to extinguish the fire hours later,” Fulda and Perkins wrote in a settlement report.

They said the fire was so intense it melted portions of the trucks and destroyed nearby utility poles. Still, Gullikson escaped with only minor burns. But Avis, 48, experienced a death that “was the stuff of nightmares,” according to Fulda and Perkins.

A pathologist concluded that Avis was breathing and conscious after the crash, based on the low level of carbon monoxide in his blood and soot in his lungs, which indicated that he burned alive.

The suit also named Gullikson’s employer, Eagle Transport Corp., and accused the North Carolina-based business of failing to properly train Gullikson. Attempts to speak with attorneys for Eagle Transport and Gullikson were unsuccessful.

Avis’s wife and daughter will receive more than $7.19 million from the settlement, with the remainder going toward attorneys’ fees, costs and liens against the estate.

Gullikson is awaiting trial on a charge of vehicular homicide.

Follow Phillip Bantz on Twitter @SCLWBantz



Amount: $11 million

Injuries alleged: Death

Case name: Avis v. Eagle Transport Corporation and David Gullikson

Court: U.S. District Court in Orangeburg

Case number: 5:16-cv-03551

Judge: J. Michelle Childs

Date of settlement: July 11

Most helpful expert: Kim Collins, pathologist; David Eagerton, toxicologist; and Anand Kasbekar, engineering and animation

Attorneys for plaintiff: John Fulda and Cheryl Perkins of Whetstone Perkins & Fulda in Columbia

Attorneys for defendants: Mark Barrow of Sweeny, Wingate & Barrow in Columbia for Gullikson; Brandt Horton, Duke Highfield and Victoria Anderson of Young Clement Rivers in Charleston for Eagle Transport


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