A former Wyoming Highway Patrolman and a Montana food distributor have reached a settlement from a 2015 collision that left the trooper seriously injured.
Rodney Miears and Sysco Montana notified U.S. District Court Judge Nancy Freudenthal on Dec. 23 that the case had been settled. All terms of the settlement are confidential.
Miears sued Sysco for negligence related to a crash that left him with lifelong injuries. The collision occurred in front of the Yellowstone Valley Inn in Wapiti, along US 14-16-20 West. He declined to comment for this article.
As Miears travelled 65 mph eastbound in his patrol car he noticed semi-tractor truck driver James Friede making a left turn from his westbound lane. By the time Miears realized Friede did not see him, his squad car slammed into the 2003 International truck, still travelling at a high rate of speed at the time of impact. Miears received injuries to his back and spine that drove him into medical retirement as a trooper because of debilitating pain.
“Following the accident … Rodney Miears experienced pain of such a severity he was unable to remain seated without intense aggravation of pain,” Laurence Stinson wrote in court documents.
Miears still works for WHP as a tow and recovery coordinator.
He filed suit in late 2018 in Federal court, as the amount of damage in the controversy exceeded $75,000 under his claims of permanent loss of enjoyment of life, emotional distress, debilitating pain and other impacts resulting from the crash. He also claimed negligence on the part of Sysco.
Rodney’s wife Marian Miears was listed as a co-plaintiff on the case due to her emotional loss suffered from her husband’s injuries. Although Freide was not named as a defendant in the case, it appears his company made it clear he was at fault during the accident.
“Sysco denies that it was the cause of the accident or that it violated safe driving practices,” Sysco attorney Jeff Meyer wrote in court documents. Sysco Montana was represented by Casper firm Schwartz, Bon, Walker & Studer, LLC. Miears’s Cody-based attorneys, Laurence and Scott Stinson and Tom Keegan, argued Sysco had orchestrated a company culture that prioritized urgency over safety.
Friede said in a deposition that he was behind schedule the day he hit Miears.
Earlier on the day of the accident June 15, 2015, Friede got his truck stuck on an awning at a Cody hotel and had two pallets fall over at Dairy Queen. That day he was driving a new route and was not given instructions as to where to pull in for the YVI stop. At the time of the incident he had been working for Sysco for four months and had his commercial driver’s license, but had only been driving on his own for about two months.
Laurence Stinson asserted Sysco had failed to perform 60-day and 90-day training assessments of Friede.
Friede also admitted he was distracted in the moments leading up to impact, trying to figure out where to turn into the Inn.
A Billings trucking industry consultant defended Sysco’s actions leading up to the accident, while an Alabama safety consultant agreed with the plaintiff that the company put profits over safety.
Friede received a $65 failure to yield ticket from the incident and was fired a few months after the incident.