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$18M Awarded in Cell-Phone Driving Crash

ST. LOUIS (CN) - A federal judge ordered a truck driver and his company to pay $18 million to a man and wife for an accident that left the husband unable to walk or talk. Truck driver Jeffrey Knight became distracted by reaching for a cell phone and his tractor-trailer plowed into stopped vehicles, killing three and injuring 14, police said.

The accident left Mark Tiburzi, 53, under constant care of a nursing home and unable to walk or talk. Tiburzi was awarded $13.8 million and his wife, Cheryl, an additional $4.2 million. The couple has two children and one grandchild.

Knight, 49, and his company Holmes Transport, of Muscle Shoals, Ala., were ordered to pay the damages by U.S. District Judge David D. Noce.

Police said Knight was distracted by reaching for a cell phone when his tractor-trailer piled into stopped vehicles on a St. Louis highway on July 15, 2008. Knight is facing trial in St. Louis County Court on involuntary manslaughter charges. At least two other families have civil suits pending against Knight and Holmes Transport.

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