$1,962,000: Plumber Ran Over By Gravel Truck While Working At A Construction Site

CASE DESCRIPTION:  A plumber was run over by a truck laying gravel while he was working at a construction site.  Plaintiffs claim the foreman and driver negligently operated the truck resulting in Plaintiff’s injures.  Defendants claim that Plaintiff was himself negligent by not avoiding the accident.  The Defendants also disputed Plaintiffs’ claim to damages.

RESULT:  $1,962,872 total verdict

On April 3, 1990, Plaintiff, Alver S., a Jamaican immigrant, was seriously injured while working on the job site during the construction of Tustin Marketplace.  The particulars of the incident are as follows: Plaintiff was a sub-contractor (plumber) hired by Milestone Construction to raise some pipes in an area that was concurrently being prepared to be paved.  The general contractor on the job, Defendant Snyder-Langston Builders, hired Defendant Union Paving to pave the parking area at the Marketplace.  Union Paving’s foreman was directing a transfer (dump) truck that was dumping the gravel base for the future parking lot.  The truck was driven by Defendant, Frank C. (an employee of Defendant Jack Burgess d/b/a Trans-Leasing Services) and owned by John T. d/b/a Toolis Transportation.

Plaintiff, while working inside a staked-off (ribboned off area) was run over by the transfer truck while it was slowly moving forward laying its spread (or base).  The truck driver was looking into his rear side view mirror watching for directions (as to how fast to move the truck forward) from the paving contractor’s foreman.  The foreman, however, who was standing to the left rear of the truck watching the gravel pour out and signaling to the driver, could not see the front right of the truck which hit Alver S.  Both the driver and the foreman had seen Alver S. working in the location where the truck struck him prior to the truck moving forward.

Defendants contended that Plaintiff was negligent in failing to notice the truck coming at slow speed, and failing to be aware of the activity around him.  Defendants contended Plaintiff was not in a ribboned and staked off area and was “hopping all around” in an out of the area where he was working, so that Defendants rightfully assumed that Plaintiff was not in the area when the truck began moving forward.  Defendants also contended that Plaintiff should not have been on the site that day and failed to check in with the general contractor so that his presence on the job site that day was unknown.

Plaintiffs’ experts testified that the driver of the truck has the responsibility to watch where the truck is going despite the need to also be looking in side rear view mirror.  The paving foreman has a duty to insure that no person is in the potential path of the dump truck prior to it moving forward.  Additionally, if someone is in the way, he should be asked to move.  The general contractor has the responsibility to insure that no conflicting or inconsistent jobs are being done on the site at the same time (such as dumping gravel with large trucks at the same time as having a plumber on the ground doing welding work).

Defense expert rebutted with testimony that the Plaintiff, despite being in a ribboned off area, doing detailed welding work, with his own pickup truck parked only five feet away, must be on constant look out to see if any large equipment is in the area.  Plaintiff should have noticed the truck, which was loud, heading in his direction, despite lots of other noise in the area – such as a jack hammer, compressor and skiploader.  Defendants also claimed that the other defendants were negligent.

At trial the parties also disputed the extent of injuries and damages the Plaintiffs had incurred.  Plaintiff provided evidence of a crushed pelvis, multiple fractures, two corrective surgeries, permanent disability inhibiting his career as a plumber and loss of consortium.  While Defendant contended that plaintiff could still be a plumbing contractor or job estimator, or that Plaintiff could obtain other semi-sedentary work full time in the future.  Defendants in fact argued that Plaintiff’s future loss of earnings was minimal, if anything, due to his capability to work.  Defendants also argued that Alver S. failed to adequately mitigate his damages.

TYPE OF CASE:  Personal Injury

INJURIES:  Plaintiff’s injuries include a crushed pelvis with multiple fractures including a hairline fracture extending to the right hip area as well as a broken tibia.  He has undergone two surgical procedures to correct his injuries.

DATE & LOCATION OF INCIDENT:  On 4/3/90 at approximately 10:00 a.m. at a construction site in the Tustin Marketplace, California.

PLAINTIFF’S AGE:  Alver S. – 42 at time of incident
Winsome S. – 40 at time of incident

OCCUPATION:  Alver S. – Self-Employed Plumbing Contractor
Winsome S. – Custodian

Wylie A. Aitken & Richard A. Cohn
For Plaintiffs – Alver & Winsome S.

Scott Gailen
For Defendants – Jack B. d/b/a Tans Leasing Services, Burges Transportation, Frank, Christian & John T. d/b/a Toolis Transportation
Robert W. Ragsdale

For Defendant – Snyder-Langston Builders & Union Paving