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A New London jury listened to opening statements Thursday in a wrongful death lawsuit brought against an Oakdale truck driver and United Parcel Service stemming from a November 23, 2010, crash that resulted in the death of George Upton.
Upton, 54, of Jewett City, was driving to work on Interstate 395 South when his pickup truck was rear-ended by a UPS van driven by Joseph Socha of Oakdale. Upton's widow, Julie Upton, is suing Socha and UPS for loss of life, loss of consortium, recklessness, negligence and lost wages of approximately $500,000.
New Britain attorney Kevin C. Ferry said Upton, also a truck driver, was on his way to work at Trimac Transportation in Bozrah at about 3 a.m. and was driving between 47 and 52 mph on the straight downhill stretch of roadway prior to Exit 82 when he was killed.
Socha, who had picked up a load of packages in Chelmsford, Mass., was driving 66 to 67 mph when his car struck Upton's truck from behind, sending it over the right-hand guardrail and into the woods. Upton was ejected from the truck, which landed 25 feet down an embankment. He suffered blunt traumatic injuries and was declared dead at the scene.
Upton was a safe driver who often "preached" to his family to give trucks plenty of room on the road because it takes them a long time to stop, Ferry said. Socha failed to keep a lookout and was driving too fast to stop in time to avoid the collision, he said.
"If you find he was reckless, you can double or triple the damages, and we will ask for that," Ferry said.
Attorney James Gordon told the jury that the accident "would not have happened except for the fact that Joe Socha was cut off." He said Socha, a 30-year employee of UPS, had done nothing to cause the accident and that he wasn't able to stop the truck after Upton suddenly drove into the lane.
Socha was called to the witness stand and began testifying late Thursday afternoon. In the coming days, attorneys for both sides plan to call accident reconstruction experts. Judge Susan A. Peck is presiding.
- Karen Florin