Trucker in hay-bale wreck near Pixley gets $1.9 million payout

The Fresno BeeNovember 15, 2013 

A truck driver who escaped death when his Freightliner hit an errant hay bale and overturned on a country road has reached a $1.9 million settlement for injuries.

The amount of the settlement, reached last week, ranks as "fairly large" for a personal injury case in the San Joaquin Valley, said Fresno attorney Nicholas "Butch" Wagner, who represented the truck driver.

About 8:30 p.m. on May 12, 2012, trucker Chris Alcantara, 48, of Porterville, was driving a loaded milk tanker on a back road near Pixley at about 50 mph.

Earlier, the driver of a John Deere tractor pulling an Agco hay baler had emerged from a field and accidentally dropped a bale of hay in the road, according to court documents.

The tractor driver didn't realize he'd lost the bale of hay and kept going, the California Highway Patrol said.

It was dusk and Alcantara didn't see the hay bale until the last moment. He swerved and put on the brakes, but ran off the road and rolled over.

He was pinned in for 45 minutes and taken by helicopter to Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno.

The truck, owned by Ruan Transport of Des Moines, Iowa was wrecked, Wagner said.

Alcantara sued Alden Nunes, Inc., of Tulare, the hay harvesting company that owned the hay baler.

Alcantara had broken ribs, vertebrae and facial bones, and injured his head, neck, shoulder, right eye, left ear, nose, left leg and ankle, according to court documents. He was hospitalized twice and had his shoulder operated on.

"He's largely recovered," but pain and headaches make sleeping more than a few hours impossible, and he can never work as a truck driver again, his attorney said.

"He's got to be retrained," Wagner said.

The settlement, reached last week, is being paid by Nunes' insurer, Nationwide Insurance, Wagner said.

Nationwide could not be reached for comment.

Ruan Transport, which lost its truck and the milk inside the tanker, did not sue but participated in negotiations and is being paid $78,000, and Southern California Edison, which lost a power pole in the wreck, will get $6,000.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6104, lgriswold@fresnobee.com or @fb_LewGriswold on Twitter.

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