Illinois trucking company files for bankruptcy after $10 million verdict


An Illinois-based trucking company has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, citing a $10 million jury decision in December after a fatal truck crash in 2019 involving one of its drivers .

Joseph Keller, president of Marvin Keller Trucking, headquartered in Sullivan, Ill., filed the first of several emergency petitions in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of Illinois on Friday, saying the filing assessment is necessary to “avoid irreparable and immediate harm”. carrier operations.

In the filing, Keller wrote that the “substantial money judgment” against the trucking company, stemming from the jury’s verdict, is the “main event” for the family trucking business, founded by his father, Marvin. Keller in 1965, to file Chapter 11.

“With an agreed forbearance to collect the judgment about to expire, and the debtor [MKT] unable to pay the judgment amount, the debtor filed a voluntary Chapter 11 petition in order to maximize potential recovery from its creditors and for the benefit of other interested parties, including its employees,” according to the emergency motion of the trucking company.

A hearing on Marvin Keller’s emergency motions is scheduled for Wednesday.

In a statement to FreightWaves, Keller said the verdict “far exceeds the amount of liability insurance and reserves.”

“The economics of this verdict are clearly unbalanced and disproportionate,” he said.

Keller said the 57-year-old family trucking business “plans to reorganize, restructure and re-emerge in a strong state.”

“My dad taught me early on to work hard to earn the respect of your drivers and to plan for the worst,” Keller said. “This event will not defeat us and will only serve to make us stronger. Our associates and their families, suppliers and other stakeholders are loyal and firmly committed to the restructuring. »

What happened?

Marvin Keller Trucking was hit with a nuclear verdict, defined as a jury award of $10 million or more, in December 2021 following a five-day trial involving one of its former drivers, John Walls of Beecher City, Illinois.

According to the Kentucky State Police report, Walls was heading east on Interstate 64 at around 11:31 p.m. on March 13, 2019, when he crossed the grassy median and collided with a pickup truck. , driven by Christopher Short, 44, of Mount Sterling, Kentucky, heading west on Interstate 64 in Bath County. The two vehicles ran through a guardrail and down an embankment after Walls’ platform pushed Short’s vehicle, “which got airborne and spun counter-clockwise, through the guardrail and in a tree”.

Short was pronounced dead at the scene, leaving behind his wife, Joy, and their four children.

Walls was taken to a nearby hospital and then released.

Lawyers for Walls claim the truck driver suffered cough-related syncope which caused him to temporarily lose consciousness, while Short’s legal team alleged that Marvin Keller’s driver fell asleep driving due to illness or driver fatigue.

The eight-person jury in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky returned a $10 million judgment in favor of Short’s wife and the couple’s two minor children.

Jon Heck, one of the attorneys who represented the Short family in the wrongful death case, said he was aware of Marvin Keller’s recent bankruptcy filing.

“We didn’t agree to any settlements,” Heck told FreightWaves.

Filing for bankruptcy

In its filing, the company lists its assets up to $10 million and its liabilities between $10 million and $50 million. The trucking company says it has up to 99 creditors and maintains that funds will be available for distribution to unsecured creditors once it pays administrative fees.

According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s SAFER database, the trucking company has 115 motor units and the same number of drivers. In court documents, Keller said the trucking company was down to 91 drivers.

On its website, the family-friendly full-load carrier transports time-sensitive regional freight, including food-grade products, consumer products and non-bulk hazardous materials.

Keller says the company’s “operations and profitability” have been impacted “by increased fuel and other market conditions.”

Marvin Keller Trucking filed for bankruptcy after being unable to negotiate a settlement agreement with the Short family, according to court documents sent to FreightWaves by his lawyer, Sumner Bourne.

Court filings say the company cannot pay for fuel, employee salaries and other operating expenses without access to its cash collateral. The company’s next payday is set for Friday.

Keller said that if the company is unable to pay its employees and maintain its benefits, “it will lose the employees to competitors and will not be able to continue operations.”

The company had gross revenue of about $27 million in 2020 and about $28 million in 2019, according to court documents.

Among the company’s unsecured creditors are Joy Short and her two minor children of Mount Sterling, Ky., who owed $10 million, which Marvin Keller disputes, and Big Al’s Towing of Cheyenne, Wyoming, who owed nearly $29 million. 000 dollars, and Lytx Inc.., a video telematics provider headquartered in San Diego, owed $14,400.

A meeting of creditors has been set for May 19.

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