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Third Party Negligence – Workers’ Compensation – Closed Head Injury, Broken Leg – $280,000 Settlement

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December 06, 1999
Cite this Page: 12 N.C.L.W. 1099

Third Party Negligence – Workers’ Compensation – Closed Head Injury, Broken Leg – $280,000 Settlement

Brief Statement of Claim: Third-party negligence/workers’ compensation
Principal Injuries (in order of severity): Mild closed head injury; broken leg
Special Damages: Approximately $74,000 medical and rehabilitative and $44,000 in alleged lost wages
Tried or settled: Settled
County where tried or settled: Guilford ;NCIC
Case Name and number: Robert Thomas v. Interstate Sign Co., Inc./Thomas v. Sawyers Sign (98 CvS 8291)
Date Concluded: Oct. 30, 1999
Name of Judge: n/a
Amount: $280,000
Insurance Carrier: Valley Forge/CNA
Expert Witnesses and areas of expertise: Nigel Ellis, Ph.D, fall safety expert
Attorneys for plaintiffs: George E. Francisco of Francisco & Merritt, Mount Airy
Other Useful Info: On April 4, 1996 during the course and scope of his employment with Sawyers Sign, plaintiff was repairing an Amoco sign, working from a 12-year-old aerial ladder truck owned by Interstate Sign and leased to the plaintiff’s employer. The aerial ladder truck was manufactured by SPONCO.
A wire cable holding the extended cherry-picker broke, the back-up retaining safety devices also broke, allowing the cherry-picker to collapse, causing the ladder truck to telescope on to itself.
The plaintiff resolved his claim against his comp carrier and brought suit against the owner/lessor of the aerial ladder truck on the theories of negligence, negligence per se, gross negligence and wilful and wanton negligence, alleging that the employer failed to provide equipment in compliance with applicable OSHA safety regulations, applicable ANSI requirements and industry standards.
The plaintiff alleged that the owner/lessor of the truck was involved in a joint venture with the plaintiff’s employer, and that the work being performed was inherently dangerous. He also alleged that punitive damages based on a pattern of activity which included OSHA citations in the four months preceding the accident, exposing more than 70 workers to workplace safety violations and an additional 23 workers to workplace safety violations in the year before the accident.
Dr. Ellis testified that defendant Interstate breached its duty to lease a truck in good condition, breached the manufacturer’s requirement of annual replacement of the wire rope, and violated numerous OSHA standards.
The defendants alleged the plaintiff’s gross contributory negligence and the negligence of the employer joined and concurred with the denied negligence of the third party in producing the injury. The employer and the third party defendant had entered into a contract wherein the employer agreed to indemnify the third party in the event of a negligence action.

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