An Albuquerque jury has ordered FedEx Ground to pay $5.4 million to the family of a California man who died in a 2011 crash involving one of the courier service’s tractor trailers.

According to a news release sent out Friday by the family’s attorney in the wrongful death case, Martin Leon, 48, a FedEx driver who was in the sleeper compartment of a company vehicle, was killed when co-driver Federico Martinez-Leandro rear-ended a slower moving tractor-trailer on Interstate 40 near Grants in November 2011.

Martinez-Leandro told officers at the scene that he had fallen asleep at the wheel, according to the statement released by attorney Mark Caruso.

Caruso also represented one of multiple plaintiffs in another wrongful death case involving a FedEx crash in June 2011. In that case, a jury awarded $165 million to the family of a woman and child who were killed when a FedEx vehicle collided with their vehicle near Las Cruces.

The award, handed down in 2015, was the largest civil award in the state’s history. The verdict is pending appeal in the New Mexico Court of Appeals.

Caruso, who represented the FedEx driver in that case, said Friday that FedEx settled with his client for an undisclosed amount the night before the trial began.

The award in the Leon case was handed down Friday after a five-day trial in Albuquerque before U.S. District Judge James Browning.

In both cases, attorneys argued that FedEx doesn’t provide training to its drivers and tries to avoid liability by using drivers who are contractors and not employees of the company.

FedEx Ground, a subsidiary of FedEx, “doesn’t have any employees who drive trucks,” Caruso said Friday. “They contract with small companies and leave it up to those contractors to provide training, but federal law says if they are driving under FedEx, they need to train.”

Caruso said FedEx’s policies differ greatly from the practices of competitor UPS, whose drivers are represented by unions that assure the drivers receive training.

“We’re hoping now [FedEx] starts training,” Caruso said. “It’s just crazy right now. I, personally, honestly avoid FedEx trucks because I know the people that operate their trucks aren’t trained.”

Asked to comment on the award, a spokesman for FedEx provided the following statement via email:

“FedEx Ground is committed to safety as our top priority, both within our operating company and across our network of vendors and service providers. While we remain deeply sympathetic to those affected by this tragic accident, we respectfully disagree with the jury’s award and will review our legal options.”

Contact Phaedra Haywood at 505-986-3068 or phaywood@sfnewmexican.com.

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