PEORIA - The family of a Stark County woman killed in a 2017 vehicle crash has been awarded $7 million by a Peoria County jury.
On Nov. 18, jurors handed down the $7 million verdict against Timothy Schwenk, the driver of a milk delivery truck and his employer, M. Cluver Milk Transportation of St. Joseph, Illinois, to compensate the family of Corina Miller, 41, who died on July 11, 2017.
Schwenk and Cluver had already admitted negligence in earlier court filings. At issue for the jury was how much Miller's family should receive in damages.
Jurors determined Prairie Farms Dairy was not liable in the crash. They'd been asked to determine if Schwenk was acting as an "agent" or contractor of the dairy, which could have made them liable as well.
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What happened in the crash?
Miller was on her way to work, headed west on Illinois Route 17 in Toulon when she collided with Schwenk's tanker truck, which was picking up milk from a farm in the pre-dawn hours. The truck was in the eastbound lanes and was backing up across the westbound lanes when the crash happened, according to court records.
"The crash was horrifying," plaintiff's attorneys Bruce Pfaff and Alexander Marsh of the Chicago law firm Pfaff, Gill & Ports said in a statement. Miller "did not see the tanker until the (last) split second according to the crash data recorder in her vehicle."
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Miller's Jeep went under the trailer. She died of blunt force trauma to the head. She is survived by her husband Michael, and by her daughter Kaylene, who is now 25.
Blood and urine tests showed Schwenk had cannabis in his body at the time. Additionally, two weeks earlier, he had installed extra bright halogen headlights that were supposed to be for "off road use" only. The bright lights blinded Miller as she was driving that morning, according to her family's attorneys.
A message left Monday morning for the defendants' attorney, Matthew S. Hefflefinger of the Peoria law firm Heyl Royster, was not immediately returned.
Criminal case previously dismissed
Schwenk also previously faced criminal charges in the crash.
However, those were dismissed last year after Stark County Circuit Judge Bruce Fehrenbacher threw out the blood and urine evidence in criminal court, as well as statements Schwenk made to police following the crash.
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Schwenk was "questioned without being given his Miranda rights," Fehrenbacher said last fall when he made his ruling. "There's no evidence that he was given any warnings of any kind."
As such, Stark County State's Attorney Jim Owens withdrew the charges, saying he couldn't proceed without Schwenk's statements and the lab results.
This article originally appeared on Journal Star: Jury awards $7 million in fatal crash death of Stark County woman