Jury Awards Victim $44.6M in Amazon Delivery Driver Accident LawsuitDecember 19, 2023
Amazon, the Delivery Service Partner & the Driver Should Have Done More to Prevent the Wreck, Jury Rules
A multi-million-dollar verdict recently issued against Amazon and others could intensify the focus on crash risks for Amazon delivery drivers while possibly bringing new attention to ongoing safety concerns associated with Amazon delivery operations.
The case, Shaw v. Amazon (Case No. 2021-CP-18-02173), involved a T-bone crash between a motorcycle and an Amazon delivery van.
Here’s why the jury ruled in favor of the plaintiff in this Amazon delivery driver lawsuit, with a closer look at the:
Facts of the Case
Detailed in the amended complaint, filed in Dorchester County, SC, in January 2022, this case centers on an Amazon delivery driver accident that occurred on September 24, 2021, when:
- The victim was traveling through an intersection in Dorchester County, SC. At the time, he was riding with his minor son as a passenger.
- As the riders approached an intersection, the Amazon delivery driver reportedly “failed to yield the right of way to Plaintiff” and “suddenly and without warning… pulled out in front of Plaintiff in an attempt to turn left.”
- The motorcycle crashed into the driver’s side of the Amazon delivery van.
- The motorcycle riders sustained severe injuries in the wreck.
Background on Amazon Delivery Driver Risks & Crash Rates
The facts of the case may sit a little differently when considering them in light of the general dangers and pressures Amazon delivery drivers typically have to contend with in their day-to-day working environments. In particular:
- Amazon delivery drivers tend to face extremely high daily delivery quotas. They also have to contend with real-time monitoring and a penalty system for violating the rules. All of that has created “abusive delivery production demands,” according to industry watchdogs.
- Amazon delivery drivers face some of the steepest accident and injury rates in the courier and delivery industry.
- Amazon and its delivery service partners (DSPs) can lean on delivery drivers to violate traffic laws, cut corners with safety, and engage in other risky behaviors to try to maximize output. Some drivers have reported no breaks during 16+-hour shifts, as well as relieving themselves in trucks, not buckling up, and more.
Remarkably, Amazon delivery driver accidents are underreported, researchers say, noting how Amazon tries to exert employer-level control over its delivery drivers and DSPs, despite classifying them as contractors. That’s usually done to limit potential liability in Amazon delivery driver accidents and lawsuits like this one.
With that context, here’s what the plaintiff alleged in Shaw v. Amazon and how the Amazon defendants responded.
The victim of this Amazon delivery driver accident made several allegations against Amazon, various Amazon subsidiaries, the DSP and the delivery driver, all collectively referred to as “Amazon defendants.”
Specifically, the plaintiff alleged that:
- The Amazon defendants had a duty of care to the plaintiff.
- The Amazon delivery driver operated the delivery van in a manner that was “negligent, negligent per se, grossly negligent, reckless, willful, and/or wanton in numerous particulars.”
Specifically, the plaintiff alleged that the Amazon delivery driver failed to:
- Obey traffic signs and signals
- Yield the right of way
- Maintain a proper lookout and focus on the roads
- Use sufficient care and skill that “a reasonable person would have used under the same or similar circumstances.”
Additionally, the plaintiff alleged that Amazon and its DSP were “vicariously liable for all acts and omissions” of its delivery van driver. With that, the Amazon and the DSP were negligent in:
- Hiring the involved delivery driver
- Properly training and/or supervising the Amazon delivery driver
- Letting a risky driver operate their delivery vehicles.
Due to that negligence, the plaintiff contended, damages requested and fair under the law included:
- Physical pain and suffering
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Lost wages and earning capacity
- Past and future medical needs
- Mental anguish and emotional distress
The plaintiff also noted their entitlement to “an award of punitive damages against all Defendants, jointly and severally.”
In February 2022, the Amazon defendants filed a response to the amended complaint, detailing 10 different defenses. Some of those arguments included that:
- The plaintiffs don’t have a “cause of action” against the Amazon defendants.
- Amazon isn’t liable for DSPs, their drivers, or the accidents involving those parties.
- If Amazon has any liability here, the retailer is “less than 50% liable for the total fault alleged.”
- Amazon didn’t act in a way that was “willful, wanton, reckless, or grossly negligent.”
- The victims caused their own injuries, either partially or entirely. With this, the Amazon defendants also contended that the wreck, injuries, and damages were caused by the “Plaintiff’s own actions in failing to exercise due and reasonable care.”
Those were just half of the defense arguments in the defendant’s initial response. With those alone, Amazon covered several “bases,” throwing out almost every possible defense to the complaint.
The Outcome & Jury Award: A Breakdown
In the end, Amazon’s defense didn’t have any legs to stand on with the jury, which issued its ruling on December 8, 2023, nearly three years after the case got underway. According to court documents, the $44.6 million jury award broke down as follows:
- $9.3 million for future medical expenses
- $453,728 for past medical expenses
- $1.1 million for future lost earning capacity
- $210,761 for lost earnings to date
- $3.3 million for non-economic damages, including pain, suffering, and loss of life enjoyment
- $30 million in punitive damages “against the Amazon defendants.”
That totaled $44,637,147 for the plaintiff. This is how the jury split that award among the defendants:
- A $30 million judgment was entered against Amazon, including Amazon.com, LLC; Amazon.com, Inc.; Amazon.com Services, Inc.; and Amazon Logistics, Inc.
- A $14.4 million judgment was entered against the driver, Amazon, and MJV Logistics, LLC (the DSP).
- $175,000 in punitive damages was awarded against the driver alone.
- $50,000 in punitive damages was awarded against the DSP.
With this award, the jury also answered a series of questions, including:
- Did the Amazon Defendants have the right to control MJV Logistics, LLC or the Amazon delivery driver?
- Do you find by clear and convincing evidence that the driver acted in a reckless, willful, or wanton manner and that this conduct proximately caused damages to the victim?
- Do you find by clear and convincing evidence that the DSP acted in a reckless, willful, or wanton manner and that this conduct proximately caused damages to the victim?
- Do you find by clear and convincing evidence that the Amazon Defendants acted in a reckless, willful, or wanton manner and that this conduct proximately caused damages to the victim?
“Yes,” was the jury’s answer to each of those questions. With that, the final judgment in the case was entered.
*As of December 19, 2023, the date on which this blog was first published