Immigrants' Kin Sue in Trailer Smuggling Case

Relatives of seven people who died in the nation's deadliest immigrant-smuggling attempt have sued the maker of a trailer, a trucking company and the driver.

The lawsuits, with allegations ranging from product liability to wrongful death and negligence, seek millions of dollars in damages. U.S. District Judge John Rainey (search) will hold pretrial hearings beginning Sept. 6.

The smuggling scheme ended in horror in May 2003 when the closed trailer, bound for Houston (search) from South Texas, was abandoned at a truck stop near Victoria. Seventeen people died inside the trailer of dehydration, overheating and suffocation. Two died later.

The suits name Great Dane Trailers of Savannah, Ga., Salem Truck Leasing and driver Tyrone Williams (search). None had responded in court as of Tuesday, the Victoria Advocate reported in its Wednesday editions.

A call placed late Tuesday to Great Dane Trailers was not answered. The leasing company could not immediately be reached for comment.

The relatives in the lawsuits listed six of the victims as being from Mexico and one from Honduras.

A jury in March convicted Williams on 38 charges of transporting illegal immigrants.