Jury Awards $3.2 Million for Driver Impaled by Highway Debris

Posted October 12, 2012 in Jury Awards Personal Injury by

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A jury awarded $3.2 million to a widow for the death of her husband who was impaled by a large piece of metal that flew off a tractor-trailer on the highway.

Shawn Collingwood, was driving his 2000 Chevy Silverado in the southbound lane of Route 221 in Washington County, Penn., when a 123-pound piece of metal came flying through his windshield and killed him instantly. The piece of metal was part of mining equipment loaded on the back of a tractor trailer traveling in the northbound lane.

His wife, Carri, sued Consol Pennsylvania Coal Co., which owned the mining equipment, O’Brien’s Rent All and Sales, which owned the tractor trailer, and John Milner , an employee of O’Brien’s who was driving the big rig. O’Brien’s was hired by Consol to transport the large piece of mining equipment, known as a coal shearer loader, to be repaired at another location.

According to the wrongful death lawsuit, the shearer included four large metal cylindrical pins that each weighed 123 pounds. The one that broke loose was not secured and was put on top of the shearer.

Carri’s attorney, Craig Fishman, argued that even though the trailer had two warning labels that said not to load from the side, the shearer was loaded with a forklift from the side instead of with a crane.

“We are here because this didn’t have to happen. We’re here because Consol, O’Brien’s and Mr. Milner were careless,” Fishman told the jury in his opening statement. “It’s easy to be careful but they chose not to.”

Before the wrongful death trial, Milner pled guilty in a criminal case to three traffic charges including driving with an unsecured load, operating a vehicle with unsafe equipment and careless driving.

During the trial, Joseph Selep, attorney for Milner and O’Brien’s, told the jury that his clients accept sole responsibility for the tragedy and are deeply sorry for the Collingwood family’s loss.

Despite that statement, the jury found O’Brien’s and Milner 90 percent to blame and Consol 10 percent at fault.

Consol’s attorney, James Miller, argued at trial that the company played no part in the tragedy and that the driver was solely responsibility for making sure the pin was secure. It has vowed to appeal.

“The trucking company and its driver took full responsibility for the accident at trial. For some reason, the jury found Consol 10 percent liable, but we think we have numerous and significant bases to appeal this verdict, and we intend to do so,” said Lynn Seay, a company spokesperson.

Collingwood was a 36-year-old engineer and left behind two young daughters, aged 4 and 7.

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