$3,000,000: Dump Truck Loses Control at Job Site Killing Young Geologist

CASE DESCRIPTION: Plaintiff Jason B, an employee of The Reynolds Group, was performing soils testing at a construction site in San Diego because there had been previous contamination of soil at the site.

A large building was going to be erected at the construction site, and at the time of the incident the site was an excavation pit, which was the beginnings of an underground parking garage.

The general contractor on the site was Taylor Frager.  Taylor Frager subcontracted the earthwork and excavation to Naton Engineering, including design of the entry and exit ramps into the excavation pit.  Naton hired a company called Western Trucking to haul dirt out of the pit and take the dirt to a dumping location.  Western Trucking had trucks that would go onto the site and they would follow the directed path of travel down into the pit through the entry ramp, where they would stop when instructed to do so by the excavator, get loaded with dirt, and exit the site.

On the date of the incident, Todd E, who was a driver for Western Trucking, was on his second trip into and out of the excavation pit that day.  As he attempted to exit the exit ramp, he lost his momentum at the crest of the ramp, was unable to effectively brake, causing the truck to back down the ramp.  The truck struck Jason B causing fatal injuries.

RESULT:  $3,000,000.00

PLAINTIFF’S CONTENTIONS AS TO LIABILITY: Plaintiffs contended that the truck driver  did not ascend the ramp in the proper gear.  Defendant said he was in third gear, plaintiffs contended that he should have been in second or first or even granny gear.

When Defendant Todd E did get to the top of the ramp and he tried to step on his brake, the brakes did not hold.  Plaintiffs contend that the brakes were not properly adjusted on the trailer, which is why he did not have effective braking ability.  Additionally plaintiffs contended that Defendant Todd E did not have the experience to have been attempting to drive on this particular construction site with the steep ramp, etc.

Plaintiffs also contended that the ramp was improperly designed and constructed by Naton Engineering.  There was loose rock placed at the top of the ramp and Plaintiff contended that it was unsafe to have loose rock placed at the top of this ramp and that the rock should have been buried to a 12 inch depth, and should have been stabilized, rather than loose.  The rock was required by local ordinance for environmental reasons.   Defendants also placed some of the rock at the crest of the ramp while it was still on the downhill portion of the ramp, which is also a violation of the “best practices” handbook.

Plaintiffs also contended that other trucks on the same day were having difficulty making their way out of the excavation pit.  In particular, other drivers indicated that they had experienced some traction loss at the crest of the ramp just like Defendant Todd E had at the time of the accident.  The other drivers claimed that this was reported to Naton employees.  Naton’s people, of course, denied this and denied observing anybody having any difficulty exiting the ramp.

Plaintiffs allege that Defendant Taylor Frager performed safety inspections on the day of the accident and on other days, that Taylor Frager employees did observe the rock at the top of the ramp, and were aware that rock should not be placed on the downhill portion of the ramp, but only on level surfaces. Plaintiffs further allege that Defendant Taylor Frager had the right and the duty to make sure that big equipment was not operating in the same location as foot workers.

TYPE OF CASE: Wrongful death

INJURIES: Loss of husband/adult child.

DATE & LOCATION OF INCIDENT: November 30, 2004,  San Diego, CA



Richard A. Cohn, Esq.
For Plaintiff(s) –  Wendy B and Bernadette B

Kenneth H. Moreno, Esq.
Jefferson S. Smith, Esq.
For Defendants –  Western Trucking, Todd E
Ken Coronel
For Defendant –  Naton Engineering,
Mark Vranges
For Defendant –  Taylor Frager