Editor’s Choice: Jury Awards Edition
A New York landscaper who lost his leg after he was hit by a car while he worked on the side of a road won a $11.2 million jury verdict on January 30.
Robert Loja was told by his employer Sleepy Hollow Landscaping to park a trailer on the roadside to unload equipment in 2008. When he went to close the trailer, a car driven by Eileen Lavelle hit a metal “men working” sign which then hit Loja from behind, acted as a knife and pinned him to the truck. His left leg was amputated above the knee and his right leg was mangled and still requires surgery more than three years after the incident.
Lavelle said she did not see Loja or the worksite because she was temporarily blinded by sunlight in her eyes. Loja’s left leg had to be amputated above the knee.
At trial, Loja’s lawyer argued that the employer did not follow safety rules for setting up a worksite.
“Mr. Loja was injured due to ‘driver inattentiveness’ but also due to failure of his employer to observe safety rules for roadside work and creation of a proper work zone and buffer prior to closing down a working lane of traffic,” said Loja’s lawyer Jonathan Rice.
Loja will not collect the entire award, because the jury found him partially at fault. The jury found his employer 60 percent at fault, the driver 10 percent at fault and Loja 30 percent at fault.
The jury apparently decided that Loja could have parked elsewhere even though his employer instructed him to park on the roadside.
“He was simply being a good worker,” said Rice.
A customer of Kroger Co. who slipped and fell on crushed fruit won $2.3 million for spinal cord injuries after the company hid video evidence of the accident.
Craig Walters, a 49 year-old commercial landscaper, took a spill when he slipped on crushed fruit near the deli counter at a Kroger’s store near Douglasville, Ga. and landed on his back. The fall damaged his spinal cord, and he required surgery to insert screws and rods to support his back. According to his lawsuit, he was unable to work and his medical bills totaled $135,000.
Before trial, lawyers for Kroger claimed they had no evidence on the store’s surveillance video, because they said the camera was not pointed where the accident happened. The lawyers supplied sample images of another location where they said the camera was pointed.
But when Walter’s lawyer, Lloyd N. Bell, interviewed the manager of the store, he asked the manager to show him how the in-store video worked. The manager demonstrated it, revealing that there was a video camera pointing directly on the place where Walters fell.
“The camera had obviously caught everything that had happened — when the fruit fell to the floor, how long it was there, Walters slipping and falling on it — and they deliberately erased it, lied to us, and gave us a phony sample of video footage to throw us off their trail,” Bell said.
A state judge sanctioned the company for destroying evidence and decided that Kroger was negligent. The judge then held a three-day jury trial on damages.
The jury’s only job was to decide how much to award Walters, and they stuck Kroger with a $2.3 million bill for Walters’ injuries.
An insurance company has been ordered by a jury to pay $10 million for denying coverage to a family injured in a car crash.
In April 2003, Ohio residents Howard Bigler and his son, Brian, were driving in a car and hit by another vehicle driven by Donal Cox. Cox veered into the Biglers’ lane while trying to adjust the sun visor in his car. Brian died in the accident and Howard and another passenger were seriously injured.
Cox and his wife Kathy told their insurance company, Personal Service Insurance Co., about the accident. But four days later, the company refunded their premiums claiming that the company had canceled their policy over a month ago.
Before trial, a judge held that the company had not legally canceled the policy before the crash and that the policy was in effect at the time of the accident.
After a two-week trial, the jury decided that the insurer acted in bad faith by denying coverage and not providing the Coxes with a lawyer. It awarded a total of $10 million, consisting of $8 million in compensation and $2 million to punish the company.
Winning attorney James Bordas said that the verdict “sen[ds] a message to insurance companies everywhere that when they promise to provide coverage and protect people who use their hard-earned paychecks to buy insurance, the insurance company had better make good on that promise when it is their turn to protect those people.”
An oil drill worker may not be paid the $15 million a jury awarded him if Conoco Philips has its way.
The company is appealing the verdict awarded in 2010 to Tony Lofton, a lifelong oil field worker, whose job involved opening 50-pound bags of powder asbestos. Lofton, now 71, developed asbestosis, a respiratory disease caused by exposure and inhaling of asbestos dust.
Lofton sued CP Chem, a joint venture between Conoco Philips and Chevron that made and distributed the asbestos. During the trial, Lofton testified wearing an oxygen mask he said he wears 24 hours a day. Lofton’s attorney Gregory Jones also presented evidence that
Conoco Philips had discussed the potential dangers of the asbestos and calculated how much it expected to pay in personal injury lawsuits.
In its appeal, the company is asking the court to overturn the verdict because it argues Lofton waited too long to bring his lawsuit. The company argued Lofton should have sued soon after he was diagnosed with problems in 1993, while Jones argued that Lofton did not know his health problems were related to asbestos until 2003, when he filed his lawsuit.
The challenge to the verdict comes on the heels of another high-profile asbestos verdict of $322 million to an oil field worker overturned by an appeals court for a hidden conflict of interest by the trial judge.