Walter Blockmon III, 50, was killed in an automobile collision after being rear-ended by an 18-year-old who was running late for a sales appointment to sell Cutco knives. He took his eye from the road to look at his GPS, which led to the deadly collision. The Illinois State Trooper that reconstructed the crash estimated the young man’s car was going between 67 and 80 miles per hour at the time of the rear-end collision, and that he did not apply his brakes.
The Blockmon family filed claims against the driver, Cutco Corporation, and its wholly-owned subsidiary, Vector Marketing Corporation. They claimed that the two companies failed to provide appropriate training to its sales representatives about using cellular devices while driving and that McClellan was acting as an agent of the companies at the time of the crash. Cutco and Vector denied responsibility for the young man’s actions, pointing to an “independent contractor” agreement that he had signed when he was originally employed.
A Cook County jury awarded $4.76 million to Walter Blockmon’s two surviving adult children, rejecting Vector and Cutco’s claims, and finding that the young man was an agent of the two companies. Cutco and Vector appealed the judgment to the First District Appellate Court, which affirmed the jury’s verdict. The two companies then petitioned the Illinois Supreme Court to hear the case, but the petition was denied. Following the appeals, the two companies owed more than $6,000,000 given the interest that had accrued on the original judgment. The Blockmon family settled their claims with the young man’s insurance company as well as Cutco and Vector for a total of $6,025,000.
The case is Lanisha Blockmon, Special Administrator of the Estate of Walter Blockmon, III v. Cutco Corporation, et al. 14 L 8538. The appellate decision affirming the jury’s verdict is Blockmon v. McClellan, 2019 IL App (1st) 180420. The Blockmon family was represented by Robert J. Napleton and Brion W. Doherty.