Wrongful death lawsuit filed in crash that killed Bakersfield couple

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A wrongful death lawsuit has been filed on behalf of family members of a Bakersfield couple who were engaged to be married when a big rig slammed into the back of the car they were in, killing them.

The lawsuit filed in the death of Matthew Woodall, 33, and Nicolett Conley, 31, says the big rig failed to slow for stopped traffic and hit the Toyota Camry carrying the couple at 55 mph.

Among those listed as defendants are Jose Antonio Herrera, the truck’s driver, and GTC Freight LLC, the San Bernardino County trucking company he worked for.

A person who answered the phone Monday at GTC Freight said a manager was not available for comment.

Woodall’s 6-year-old daughter and Conley’s parents are listed as plaintiffs.

“In my career I’ve never seen anything worse than this,” said the plaintiffs’ attorney, Timothy M. Osborn. “It’s as bad a set of facts as you can imagine with everything going so well with (the couple) and their families and Matt’s beautiful daughter, who had become close with (Conley).”

The crash occurred as Woodall and Conley headed to Las Vegas to meet some friends for a pre-wedding celebration. They were to be married two weeks later.

The Camry sustained “extremely catastrophic damage,” Osborn said. The impact shoved the car into a pickup truck, flipping the truck upside down and backwards.

The pickup came to rest on top of the Camry.

Herrera “clearly was not paying attention,” Osborn said, but it hasn’t yet been determined what exactly he was doing at the time of the crash. Tests showed he was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

“We’re just looking forward to getting the litigation going and starting the discovery process and find out what he was doing,” Osborn said.

According to the lawsuit, Herrera on July 7 was driving a big rig hauling 40,000 pounds of dairy products he had picked up from a cold storage facility in Tulare.

Several hours after leaving the facility, Herrera was driving east on Highway 58 in San Bernardino County and approaching Highway 395 at Kramer Junction. Traffic ahead of him had slowed to a stop.

He failed to slow and the big rig plowed into the couple’s car, the lawsuit says. Herrera was cited for driving at an unsafe speed.

The California Highway Patrol submitted its investigation into the crash to the San Bernardino District Attorney’s office, requesting a charge of vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence be filed against Herrera, according to the lawsuit. The investigation remains under review.

The lawsuit seeks both economic and non-economic damages — loss of the love, companionship and affection of the couple, among other things — in an amount to be proven at trial.

The next hearing in the case is set for Aug. 22.

By: Jason Kotowski
Originally Published on the Bakersfield Californian April 16, 2018