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$15 million award for amputee

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TUCSON, Ariz. — A federal jury has awarded $15 million to a man who lost his right leg after being hit by an 18-wheeler four years ago.

Jurors on Wednesday ordered Little Bear Transport of Utah to pay Bruce Austin $5 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages following a five-day trial in U.S. District Court here.

According to court documents, a Little Bear Transport tractor-trailer rig was traveling west on Interstate 10 about 25 miles east of Willcox on Dec. 24, 2002, when the rig swerved into the median and struck several vehicles involved in an earlier fatal crash.

The out-of-control rig then hit Austin of Bowie, the 58-year-old owner of a tow-truck company, who was in the process of loading up one of the disabled vehicles.

Austin's right leg was severed, along with his left thumb, and he suffered a broken left shoulder and some broken ribs.

Court documents show the rig's driver admitted that prior to the crash he had falsified his daily log book to make it appear as though he hadn't driven as far as he had — allowing him to get home for Christmas.