Jury awards truck driver $81,000 in lawsuit against Flying J
By TARA JENNINGS Ledger Staff Writer firstname.lastname@example.org
A Cherokee County jury awarded a California truck driver $81,000 this month after being “Maced” by the manager of Blacksburg’s Flying J Travel Plaza two years ago.
Cary E. Reese of Visalia, Calif., filed the suit asking for $74,999 in compensatory and punitive damages as well as any further relief the court deems proper, according to the complaint filed at the Cherokee County Courthouse. He received $21,000 in actual damages and $60,000 in punitive damages on Dec. 1.
Reese, a truck driver, stopped at the Flying J, 1011 N. Mountain St., to buy gas, coffee and to take a shower. He took his coffee and a NASCAR hat to the counter to pay and asked manager Andy Williams how much the hat cost.
Reese claims that Williams verbally assaulted him and accused him of being illiterate, according to the suit. The truck driver states he paid for the coffee, declined the purchase of the hat and left.
The suit claimed Williams followed Reese outside while demanding he not leave and when Reese attempted to get into his truck, the manager sprayed him in the face with a can of Mace and ordered him to the ground.
Williams held Reese on the ground for 20 to 30 minutes by pointing the Mace can at him while waiting for police to arrive. Williams contended Reese pulled his arm back in a threatening manner and he maced him in self-defense, but Reese denied that and said he only wanted to leave.
When Blacksburg police arrived at the Flying J, both Reese and Williams refused to file an incident report.
The suit states that Reese suffered actual and personal injuries and medical expenses and lost wages. It also states that he suffered humiliation, fear and recurring nightmares.
Williams has a prior conviction for assault and battery in 2000, according to court filings, which state Williams “flew into a rage and assaulted an employee of Red Lobster for requesting his wife’s identification” after she ordered an alcoholic drink. Reese’s attorney, John Hawkins, said Flying J was negligent in hiring Williams because no criminal background check was done, despite company policy. Hawkins said the assault was evidence of Williams’ violent tendencies.
Williams was fired six months after the incident involving the truck driver for discrimination after he made inflammatory statements to a Middle Eastern employee of Flying J, according to court documents.