Published February 14. 2013 1:00PM Updated February 15. 2013 12:17AM
A New London jury awarded more than $3.8 million Wednesday in a wrongful death lawsuit brought against an Oakdale truck driver and United Parcel Service stemming from a Nov. 23, 2010, crash that resulted in the death of George Upton.
The jury found that UPS driver Joseph Socha had acted recklessly and negligently, awarding Upton’s estate $508,132 in economic damages, which included future lost wages, $1.5 million in non-economic damages, and $1.875 million to Upton’s widow, Julie, for loss of consortium.
The trial started Jan. 24 before Judge Susan A. Peck in New London Superior Court. The six-member jury’s deliberations had started last week but were interrupted by the blizzard.
According to testimony, Upton, 54, of Jewett City was driving to work on Interstate 395 South when his pickup truck was rear-ended by a UPS van driven by Socha.
New Britain attorney Kevin C. Ferry, with assistance from attorney Stephen M. Reck of North Stonington, represented Upton’s survivors. Ferry said that Upton, also a truck driver, was on his way to work at Trimac Transportation in Bozrah about 3 a.m. and was driving between 47 and 52 mph on the straight downhill stretch of roadway prior to Exit 82 when he was killed.
Socha, who had picked up a load of packages in Chelmsford, Mass., was driving 66 or 67 mph in the right-hand lane when his van struck Upton’s truck from behind, sending it over the right-hand guardrail and into the woods, according to testimony. Upton was ejected from the truck, which landed 25 feet down an embankment. He suffered blunt traumatic injuries and was declared dead at the scene.
According to Ferry, Upton was a safe driver who often “preached” to his family to give trucks plenty of room on the road because it takes them a long time to stop. Socha failed to keep a lookout and was driving too fast to stop in time to avoid the collision, he said.
“UPS never accepted responsibility here, that’s the key, and spent $80,000 on an expert to say George Upton was at fault,” Ferry said over the phone Thursday.
He said Upton was a “great family man who provided for his family,” and that after his death his wife lost their home and had to move into an apartment.
Representing UPS and Socha, attorney James Gordon of Columbus, Ohio, had told the jury the accident “would not have happened except for the fact that Joe Socha was cut off.” He said Socha, a 30-year employee of UPS, had done nothing to cause the accident and that he wasn’t able to stop the truck after Upton suddenly drove into the lane