$2,625,000 :: Ruiz

SETTLEMENT : Plaintiff sued the parent company of his employer for providing dangerous equipment

On October 7, 1999, a 33-year-old garment worker was required by his employer to assist in the unloading of one of the company’s large carts. Each of these carts contained an estimated 800 pounds of materials. As the employee was handling the indicated cart along one of the ramps in the receiving department, he lost control of it due to the cart being top heavy and unwieldy. The bulk of the 800 pounds of material fell atop him and caused substantial injuries that rendered him a paraplegic.

The Plaintiff Goes Up the Ladder

The injured worker hired Roger E. Booth of Booth & Koskoff to represent him. While workers’ compensation had paid $332,500 in initial medical expenses related to the accident, Booth asserted that this was primarily a case of employer negligence and defective products.

The plaintiff and his attorney asserted that the employer’s parent company was directly at fault due to a lack of safety guidelines. One of the operations managers of the parent company was personally responsible for the safety of all its subsidiaries, including the employer and location where the plaintiff worked. The plaintiff argued that the cart, with its 800 pounds of material, was too dangerous and unwieldy for one person to handle; and as such, there should have been a safety rule requiring two workers, not one, to handle such loaded carts.

The plaintiff and his attorney also named Roe Manufacturer, a Texas-based company, as partially responsible. This company manufactured the portable ramp, known as a dock leveler, that the plaintiff’s employer used to unload the trucks in the receiving department. The plaintiff argued that the ramp used at the time of the incident was defective and may have caused or significantly contributed to the cart tipping over.

The Defense Argues Accountability

Roe Manufacturer disputed this claim, alleging not only was the ramp not defective, but even if it had been, there was no evidence that the accident occurred on the ramp in question. The employer’s parent company likewise argued against their accountability in the manner. They alleged that its operations manager only had general supervision of safety and that the plaintiff’s accident was the responsibility either of either himself or his direct employer. Furthermore, they claimed there was a two-person rule and that the plaintiff should never have handled the cart alone.

The Outcome

This case was particularly interesting as Booth & Koskoff were not the first attorneys the plaintiff sought. The plaintiff first brought the case to another prominent trial lawyer who rejected it saying there were issues going after the parent company as a third-party defendant. However, Booth & Koskoff did accept it and were successful.

The case settled for a total of $2,625,000 primarily for use in future medical expenses. The parent company paid out $2,450,000 and the manufacture of the ramp in question paid out $175,000. The case did not go to trial but was rather resolved at its third settlement conference conducted by the retired Justice John Trotter at JAMS in Orange County, California.

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