A decision made by the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) three years ago may have resulted in over 400 car accidents and the tragic loss of life of one Texas man.
On December 17, 2008, the TxDOT made a decision to spray the roadways with a magnesium chloride mixture to prepare the roads in anticipation of a rain and sleet that would freeze on the roadways. The hope was that preparing the roads would prevent icy conditions, thus preventing motor vehicle accidents in Bextar County.
But the rain and sleet never came. The de-icing substance remained on the roads, and it is believed that it actually caused more accidents. According to San Antonio police records, officials responded to nearly 400 car accidents on that date. On a typical day, they usually respond to less than a third of that number – about 140.
One such accident proved to be fatal. A 32-year-old man was driving his pickup truck on the ramp to Interstate 37 when his truck skidded out of control. It hit a guardrail and then a pillar. He died as a result of the crash.
His family has since brought a wrongful death lawsuit against the TxDOT, alleging that the agency was irresponsible in placing the de-icing agent on the road. The lawsuit alleges that the magnesium chloride, when mixed with oil on the road, caused slick conditions – an unnecessary danger to motorists.
The trial started on Tuesday, December 6. After four days of deliberations last week, the jury remained deadlocked and a mistrial was declared last Thursday, December 15. A new trial date has not yet been set.
Source: San Antonio Express-News, “Wrongful death suit against TxDOT begins,” 12/6/11; “Mistrial declared in TxDOT wrongful death trial,” 12/15/11.