$2,000,000 :: Orr v. Maersk

SETTLEMENT : Oversized load on truck bed struck freeway overpass and landed on plaintiff’s car

On March 19, 2003, married couple Robert and Nancy Orr were driving along a transition road between Los Angeles’s northbound U.S. Highway 710 and eastbound U.S. Highway 91 when a large generator, which was being carried by a tractor trailer, struck the overpass and fell off the truck. The generator struck the Orr’s vehicle.

As a result of the collision, Robert Orr, the driver, sustained a skull fracture, subarachnoid hemorrhage, and fractures to his spine at T6-T12. As well as a diffuse axonal brain injury that caused cognitive defects. This, in addition to his more significant physical injuries, caused Orr to miss a month of work at his $200,000 salary job as a chief financial officer for a radiological management group. Orr claimed that this extensive medical contributed to his being terminated from his job nine months later during a shareholder takeover of his company in which senior personnel were fired. Orr claimed his firing was also related to poor performance during the eight-month interim period caused by his cognitive defects and physical pain from injuries sustained in the accident.

Following his firing, Robert Orr was unable to find comparable work and instead was forced to take a position as a bookkeeper with an annual salary of $65,000. Orr predicted that he would be unable to find any work comparable to his previous CFO position before his retirement age and thus hired Richard B. Koskoff of Booth & Koskoff to secure financial compensation for his injuries, lost earnings, and pain and suffering.

The Lawsuit Against Maersk Inc. and APM Terminals North America

Booth filed a lawsuit on behalf of his client against Maersk Inc. and APM Terminals North America to recoup the aforementioned damages. Maersk, a Europe-based shipping company that owns APM Terminals in Los Angeles, had hired an independent trucking company to transport the generator within the limited Los Angeles harbor area. That independent trucking company hired its own independent contractor truck driver to perform delivery of the product.

What was supposed to be a short delivery took an unexpected turn when the contract driver arrived with the generator at the harbor terminal. Unexpected harbor congestion led to the driver being turned away and directed instead to deliver the cargo directly to the company’s own yard. Yet the height of the generator exceeded the applicable limitations for truck shipping, thus requiring a permit and making driving underneath overpasses both dangerous and a violation of the California Vehicle Code.

The plaintiffs argued that Maersk was partly at fault for the collision as they knew a permit would be required to transport the oversized generator cargo yet failed to inform either trucking company or the driver that the load exceeded applicable heights. They contended that the independent trucking company would never have instructed the driver to take a route that involved freeway driving had it known the instructed cargo was too large for the route.

While the defense initially argued that it should have been obvious to the truck driver the cargo was overheight, they eventually reached a settlement with the Booth and his client. In March 2006, Booth secured a $2 million settlement in Orr’s favor.

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