Truck Driver Ignores Signs Banning Trucks and Limiting Weight and Destroys Indiana Historic Bridge . . . Faces $135 Fine

We often discuss the long-standing question in criminal law of the right balance between offenses and sanctions. A sanction needs to generally achieve restoration for victims and deter others in an ideal world. That does not appear to be the case in Paoli, Indiana where a historic bridge from 1880 collapsed after a track driver violated weight and access signs by driving her truck over the bridge. The sanction? A possible $135 for disregarding a posted sign. That’s it. In the meantime, the bridge will have to be replaced and traffic halted for weeks or months due to her incredibly reckless and thoughtless act. I am assuming that the trucking company can be sued for the damage to the bridge.

News reports indicate that the driver was 23-year-old Mary Lambright of Fredericksburg, Indiana who was driving with her 17-year-old cousin.  She was reportedly trying to park at a Walmart nearby.

The small Gospel Street Bridge was an example of an iron truss bridge built by the Cleveland Bridge and Iron Company of Ohio.

The bridge clearly bars trucks and limits weight to 6 tons. The driver took a semi-trailer filed bottles of water over the bridge — a total weight of 35 tons or roughly 600 percent over the limit. The pictures linked below also show that she had to have been moving as a considerable rate of speed at the time to peal back the top of the truck.

Just a $135 fine. This would seem a public safety question that warrants more significant sanctions, including possible criminal penalties. Looking at the bridge at the link below, it is hard to believe that anyone would think that a truck could make it over structure.

What do you think the sanction should be in such a case? Should there be a criminal element to the punishment?

Source: WDRB

53 thoughts on “Truck Driver Ignores Signs Banning Trucks and Limiting Weight and Destroys Indiana Historic Bridge . . . Faces $135 Fine”

  1. Thanks DavidM2575. I was going to post the same picture. Puts the event in a whole new light. LIke trying to drive a Semi through a New England covered bridge.

  2. I am curious as if the damages sought would be replacement value of the bridge or actual value (depreciated value) of the 100+ year old bridge.

  3. I think we need to recognize this minor traffic fine addresses the violation of disobeying the over-tonnage rule of the bridge and not the damage ensuing.

    The statute does not necessarily address the damage relative to the fine and as such it is not the final remedy available to the state or municipality owning the bridge and the payment of this amount does not limit the damage liable.

    I am not directly familiar with this state’s civil procedures but if typical the fact that the driver was issued a citation, and if adjudicated to have committed the violation it will make the case easy for the state to prosecute the driver, the driver’s employer, and their respective insurers in civil court for damages.

    By citing the driver under an over-tonnage or disobedience to road signage statute it is not necessary to establish causation of the bridge failure as being an element of a violation of that statute, the state only need satisfy the elements of tonnage or violation of the signage. Once the driver is found guilty of breaking that particular law, it becomes easy to find fault in civil court for the destruction of the bridge. It really only is at this point a matter of settling the damage amounts and not proving a guilty act.

    In practical purposes with regard to traffic collisions and litigation between opposing parties having a guilty result found against one of the litigants for the causation of the collision establishes a strong position that they were “at fault”. It is especially magnified when it is a criminal case and the litigant was found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. It makes a strong case in the resulting civil case where it is usually just a preponderance of evidence standard.

    In short the minor fine is only the first step. While it sounds mild consider it as merely a formality because a conviction for this traffic violation is going to set the driver up for a difficult case ahead of them when it comes to paying for the damage to the bridge.

  4. Allow me to take this opportunity to say something nice about the govt. The years almost over and I need to get in my quota of positive comments about the govt[3]. Having investigated many truck accidents over the past several decades, I have contact w/ the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration. They have fairly stringent requirements for liability insurance of truckers and trucking companies. They have a website that is not bad, allowing you to enter the truck company name and obtain info on their insurance carrier.

  5. The Iraqi Flag once again flies over the city of Ramadi. Initial claims of victory came on Iraqi television.

    London Bridge has fallen down, and moved to Arizona.

    In other news:
    Some guy named Stan Kroenke is moving a football team from Saint Louis to LA. Good bye Ms. American pie, drove my Chevy to the levee but the levee was dry.

    Japan is paying some restitution to rape victims in Korea from the WWII era.

    Wall Street is about to go way up.

    1. BarkinDog – the London Bridge that fell down is not the one moved to Arizona.

  6. Lyrics to Cheech and Chong song on Blind Melon Chitlins:

    Goin downtown
    Gonna see my gal..
    Gonna show her my ding dong.

  7. DBQ

    You have no need for train? Fine. Now your other fellow citizens have no need for your bridge.

    The plan is working. Continue to cut taxes. De-regulate. Drown the shrunken government in the bathtub. Build it yourselves. Depend on the free market. You like it out there with no neighbors. No bridges will keep the riff=raff out – just the way you like it.

    Meanwhile, I’ll wrap up my very small violin so we can play a dirge in your honor.

    1. L’Observer – 1) do you own a very small violin 2) can you play it 3) do you know any dirges?

  8. This Indiana Bridge can be replaced in less than a year.

    Good for Indiana then. However our local politicians don’t give a rip about repairing temporarily or replacing a vital bridge that connects people to essential services. They have/had the money. They just would rather spend it on other projects like Karen said. The bullet train to nowhere. Public works in areas where they can get more votes and ignore the other areas where they aren’t going to get as much bang for their buck.

    It isn’t about public safety or investing in infrastructure. It is all about votes, payola and using the taxpayer money for their OWN benefit.

  9. Karen & DBQ,

    This Indiana Bridge can be replaced in less than a year. U.S. bombed Iraq bridges, and then builds new ones with the latest Army Corp civil engineering specifications.
    Then ISIS bombs newly built U.S. taxpayer paid bridges.

    Good jobs, with lots of projects, never ending as long as cash is in pipe line to support BOM (Bill of Materials). Long term employment.

  10. A subsequent story indicates that the driver saw the sign, but didn’t know how many pounds six tons was, was working for an employer, and had only had her CDL for six months. It also indicates she has been charged with reckless operation of a tractor/trailor (up to 180 days and up to $1000 fine). Assuming the information regarding employment is correct, the employer is on the hook for any damages caused. Often, however, the limits of a small employer’s policies applicable to vehicle accidents is $1,000,000 though higher limits are becoming more common.

  11. Very interesting comments.

    I agree that the company is liable for damages. From the photos, I think they should have added a reckless driving charge. She could have killed someone, and the bridge is totaled. The fit wasn’t even close, let alone the weight restriction.

    As DBQ pointed out, that can take years to replace the bridge. She’s very young. I wonder how long she’s had her CDL. She’s very likely lost her job, and I assume this mark on her record will make it more difficult to get a new one in trucking. I hope she does not work in trucking again without extensive re-training.

    DBQ – that’s our life in CA, isn’t it? But they have all this money for a vacation train to SF, which is projected to have low ridership, and be an eternal drag on taxpayers to subsidize. No money to fix our potholed roads or bridges, or ease the traffic. How many daily commuters do they think are driving from Los Angeles to SF? And when they do build a new freeway, they make it a toll road and charge the very taxpayers who paid to build it, so it stands like an open bowling alley while everyone still crams into the crowded freeways.

  12. Was Walmart the delivery destination for this load? Was the driver properly trained and licensed? Why was the juvenile in the truck? Too many facts missing from this story.

  13. Dog

    That’s Chitlin-no ‘d’, no ‘s’. He is the blues singer that ‘went downtown to see his girl and show her his ding dong.’ Well, listen to the Cheech and Chong album

  14. She should be charged with criminal reckless driving and have to pay for the bridge and compensate the city for the time the bridge was out of service. She also should have her CDL suspended until she can demonstrate having learned from this experience. This was a really small bridge.

    100% agree with David!!!

    In addition to compensating the city, she should have to compensate every single citizen that is being inconvenienced and put into actual danger by her destruction of the bridge.

    In our small rural community, we are dealing with this issue. A bridge that crosses the river behind our property and connects the outlying rural areas to the small city has been declared by the County and engineers to be unsafe due to scouring at the base of the pillars. The bridge was supposed to have been replaced in 2014 and had been in the ‘works’ for about 5 years prior. Instead of replacing the old bridge the County has spent the grant money on other projects, closer to the city and leaving the outlying rural area bridges to just crumble away. The money is there, they just would rather spend it on themselves and ignore us. We were told the bridge would be closed for 3 to 5 years before it could be newly constructed. Which means 5 to 10 years. The county refused to repair the bridge, which could easily be done and refused to listen to engineers that we had hired to confirm this.

    The closure of the bridge has made it so that people have to travel 15 to 30 miles out of their way to get to another bridge in order to go shopping and connect with services. This means that the essential services of ambulance, fire department and police protection also have to take an additional 30 to 40 minutes to get to the citizens in an emergency. As a result, people are spending more time in their daily commutes to get to work and are put into DANGER because the bridge has been closed. 5 to 10 YEARS of closure!!

    Amazingly……(sarcasm) after a group of citizens, who are rather well heeled and influential in other parts of the state due to wealth or political connections, got together and started an organized protest and threatened to sue the County if anyone got hurt or worse died because they had closed the bridge…….suddenly….the discovered that they had the funds to repair the bridge after all!! Amazing….right?

  15. I like the charge of criminal reckless driving. And yes this is a much better photo.

    With regard to Meadowlark Lemon the basketball player who died. He was great. I watched the video which accompanies the Washington Post article on Google. It was of his induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003. He was a character.
    Now, if anyone knows, who is Blind Mellon Chitlinds? Musician? I probably do not spell it right.

  16. Davidm,

    Besides the weight sign, there is height also. Photo of damage to trailer indicates, truck was to high besides being over weight.
    Again, on the way to a Walmart super center gives me lots of settlement ideas. Yeah, 23 year old Mary did it, but other parties have cash to fix it.

    1. Jerry, I assume she has insurance. It is not completely clear, but it sounds like this was her truck. The reports tell who owned the load of water she was carrying, but they do not identify any owner of the truck other than calling it her truck. In any case, I’m pretty sure she is forced to carry liability insurance for something like this.

  17. She should be charged with criminal reckless driving and have to pay for the bridge and compensate the city for the time the bridge was out of service. She also should have her CDL suspended until she can demonstrate having learned from this experience. This was a really small bridge. My first thought is whether she was drunk or on drugs. Look at this particular photo and you can see how small this bridge was.

Comments are closed.