"It was a cruel trial," says Tosha Briscoe, who sat through the two-week proceeding in Baltimore County that led to the multimillion-dollar collective damage award. She said her father got nothing, "not even a sympathy card," from the trucking company.

She said her family was awarded less than $10,000, and they got a little from insurance. Her mother raised Tosha and Tosha's younger brother alone.

"The whole thing was unfair, unjust," she said.

Buber was nearing the end of his shift, repaving lanes on the Capital Beltway's inner loop in Prince George's County when a Gunther's Leasing Transport tractor-trailer carrying home appliances slammed into the back of a small rented truck being driven by a man moving from Rhode Island to Florida. The vehicles careened through the construction zone, each striking an asphalt-rolling machine.

The tractor-trailer jackknifed and burst into flames. Keith Briscoe Jr., a passenger, was killed and the driver, his brother, was injured.

Surgeons spent hours picking skull fragments from Buber's brain. Medical costs topped $1 million, says Kreiner. Gunther's Leasing Transport carried $1 million in insurance, federal records show.

Buber's mother, Helen Ruth Moody, took early retirement, shouldering the responsibility of looking after her son and advocating for his care until her death two years ago at the age of 74.

Now Kreiner, a pharmacy manager, has taken over those duties and tries to make it to the nursing home twice a week to feed her brother.

Buber cannot speak and communicates by pointing his permanently clenched fists at letters of the alphabet on a laminated card. He rarely has visitors.

"He wants a truck. He wants a job. He wants to work," Kreiner said during a visit Friday.

Buber smiles and nods his head as he spells out another wish: B-O-A-T.

Bankruptcy and a rebirth

Gunther's Leasing Transport, founded in 1979, was located in an industrial area west of Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.

Soon after the verdict in the Capital Beltway crash, the company filed for reorganization under federal bankruptcy laws, listing assets of $9 million and liabilities of $17.5 million — the bulk of it the court judgment.

But the company had other looming problems. In 1991, some of the company's truckers had complained to the Federal Highway Administration that they had been taught how to falsify their driving logs, triggering an FBI investigation. When a judge ordered Mark David Gunther to turn over the records, he said they were lost during renovations.

A federal jury in Baltimore rejected his story, finding him guilty of falsifying logs and perjury. Gunther was sentenced to 30 months in prison and the company was ordered to pay a $170,000 fine. Three years later, after an appeal failed, he reported to prison.

Attorney James A. Vidmar Jr., who represented Gunther's Leasing Transport in the bankruptcy proceeding, said a reorganization was approved that included "substantial payments" to creditors, including the victims of the accident.

However, "at some point after that, things just died," said Grochal, counsel to the creditors committee. "They weren't coming anywhere close to making payments."

The court docket confirms the "debtors failure to comply" with the repayment plan. In June 2001, the Internal Revenue Service, to which the company owed $1.9 million, convinced the court to convert the bankruptcy case from a reorganization to a liquidation.

But attorneys involved in the case said last week that Gunther's Leasing Transport owed more money on most of its trailers than they could bring in a sale, rendering them worthless to creditors.