COAL CITY – The son of a Coal City woman killed in a deadly chain-reaction crash last month on Interstate 55 near Channahon has filed suit against the driver charged with causing the accident.
Joshua Johnke filed the wrongful death lawsuit Friday in Cook County Circuit Court on behalf of his mother, Vicky L. Palacios, 54. She was among the five killed in the July 21 crash.
Francisco Espinal-Quiroz and Espinal Trucking – the one-truck, one-person company he was working for at the time of the crash – are listed as defendants, according to court documents provided by Johnke’s attorney, Joseph Curcio, of the Chicago personal-injury firm Curcio Law Offices.
“The facts of the incident speaks for itself. This was a horrible accident that has ruined the lives of these families,” Curcio said Wednesday.
The suit alleges Espinal-Quiroz, 51, of Leesburg, Indiana, acted “carelessly, negligently and improperly” and “willfully and wantonly” the day of the crash, disregarding the construction zone’s speed limit, failing to slow and stop his semitrailer and improperly changing lanes.
The suit also accuses Espinal-Quiroz of carelessly and willfully violating federal law by driving beyond the number of hours allowed by law and falsifying his log book. The suit is seeking damages in “excess of $50,000.”
Espinal Quiroz pleaded not guilty Tuesday during an appearance at the Will County Courthouse on criminal charges related to the accident. He is being held in lieu of a $1 million bond.
Charges against Espinal-Quiroz include falsifying a log book and failing to maintain a log book. Police also cited him for failing to reduce speed to avoid an accident. Espinal-Quiroz has a history of traffic violations that date back to 1991 and include three speeding tickets since 2012.
Assistant Will County State’s Attorney Jim Long has previously said other charges, including reckless homicide, are possible as state police continue their investigation.
Espinal-Quiroz’s next court appearance is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Sept. 9.
Sara Hakey, fiancée to Palacios’ oldest son and spokeswoman for the family, could not be reached for comment this week.